Derech HaTeva

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A Publication of Yeshiva University
Stern College for Women
A Journal of Torah and Science
Volume 15, 2010 - 2011 ··:-
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Derech HaTeva
A JournAl of TorAh And Science
A Pu blicat ion of St er n College f or Women Yes h iva Un iver s it y
Volu me 15 2010 - 2011
STAff
ediTorS-in-chief:
cover deSign:
lAyouT:
PrinTing:
Ilana Ickow
Elisa Karp
Leora Perlow
Ilana Ickow
Ann Levenson
Advanced Copy Center
Brooklyn, NY 11230
dedi cATi on & AcKnoWl edgeMenTS
dedicATion
We dedicate the ffteenth volume of Derech HaTeva: A Journal of Torah and Science to the memory of the
fve members of the Fogel family from Itamar, Israel who were brutally murdered by terrorists while sleeping in
their home on leil shabbat March 11, 2011. Rabbi Ehud (36), Ruth (35), and their three children Yoav (11), Elad
(4) and Hadas (3 months) were prematurely and ruthlessly taken from us that Friday night and were survived
by children Tamar (12), Roi (6), and Yishai (2). The Fogel family was expelled from their home in Gush Katif
only a few years prior to moving to the West Bank community of Itamar where Rabbi Ehud taught at a hesder
yeshiva. His wife Ruth was also known as a wonderful teacher who was very dedicated to serving her community,
and most importantly, committed to raising her children.
We present this volume of Derech HaTeva in the Fogel family’s honor and memory. L’ilui Nishmatam, may their
memory be a blessing.
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Dr. Harvey Babich. Without him, Derech HaTeva 5771 would
not have made it to print. His perpetual dedication to each and every student and his enthusiasm for the pursuit
of higher Torah and scientifc knowledge were the driving force behind this publication.
The Editors
Ilana Ickow Elisa Karp Leora Perlow
PASuK
אפרמ ורשב לכלו םהיאצמל םה םייח יכ

For [the words of Torah] are life to the one who fnds them, a cure for his whole body.
Proverbs 4:22
ב”כ:’ד ילשמ
derech haTeva 7
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Pamela Apfel
Rebecca Benhaghnazar
Rachel Blinick
Sarit Cohen
Batya Edelman
Esti Feder
Shira Goldstein
Nathalie Hirsch
Ilana Ickow
Elisa Karp
Eliana Kohanchi
Batsheva Kuhr
Katie E. Liebling
Miri Mandelbaum
Sara Margolis
Juliet Meir
Leora Perlow
Kate Rosenblatt
Malki Silverman
Rose Snyder
Helen Ayala Unger
Harvey Babich, Ph.D.
Department of Biology, SCW
Man’s Place in BRCA
A Wrinkle in Parenthood
Aging and Longevity in Science and Tanach
Dreams: Reality or Fantasy?
Animal Experimentation: A Halachic Perspective
Smoking: Personal Discretion or Halachic Violation?
Bad Breath in the Talmud
Should Preconception Gender Selection Be Allowed?
An Elemental and Dental View of Judaic Literature
Colorful Chemistry in Halakha: The Mystery of Tekhelet
The Jewish Stance on Organ Transplantations
Insight into Yitzchak’s Eyesight
Lavan’s Real Personality
Familial Dysautonomia and the Pursuit of Genetic Health
Words to the Wise
Hermaphrodite: Another Gender?
Defning the Human Species:
An Examination of Transgenic Apes in Halacha
The Resonance of Jericho
The Pomegranate:
Beauty and Health in Ancient and Modern Times
Halakhic Headaches: How Much Affiction is Too Much?
Maaseh Avot Siman L’Banim: Spiritual and Biological Parallels
Plagues 4 to 6: Wild Animals, Pestilence, and Boils
TAbl e of conTenTS
8 derech haTeva

Pamel a Apf el
M A n ’ S P l A c e i n b r c A
he theological debate of whether medical practice
intervenes with G-d’s divine plan is a centuries-old
debate, and the questions still linger. To what extent
can man treat or cure illness without violating G-d’s
intended plan? Is it possible that G-d intended for someone to
remain ill and therefore any treatment would be a violation of
G-d’s word? Or did G-d intend for man to intervene in His affairs
and cure the sick? At what point is it considered that man is playing
the role of G-d instead of acting as His partner in creation? In the
Midrash Shmuel, there is a story about Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi
Akiva that illustrates the concept that G-d relies upon man to aid
in the process of healing [1].
It happened that Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiva were stroll-
ing in the streets of Jerusalem with another man. They encoun-
tered a sick person who said to them, “My Masters, tell me with
what should I be healed?” They told him: “Take such-and such
until you are cured”. The person who was with them said to them:
“Who afficted this man with sickness”? They said: “The Holy-
One-blessed-be-He.” He said to them: “And you interfered in an
area which is not yours! He afficted and you heal?” They said
to him: “What is your occupation?” He said to them: “I am a
farmer, as you can see by the sickle in my hands.” They said to
him: “Who created the feld and the vineyard?” He said: “The
Holy-One-blessed-be-He.” They said to him: “And you interfered
in an area not yours? He created these and you eat their fruit?”
He said: “Don’t you see the sickle in my hand? If I did not go out
and plow the feld, cover it, fertilize it, and weed it, nothing would
grow!” They said to him : “Fool…Just as with a tree, if it is not
fertilized, plowed, and weeded, it does not grow, and if it already
grew but then is not watered, it dies; so with regard to the body.
Drugs and medicaments are the fertilizer, and the physician is the
farmer” (Midrash Shmuel 4:1) [1].
If it is so that man can and should aid in the healing process,
to what extent may he do so, specifcally in regards to treating
breast cancer?
Dr. Z. Wahrman, in her book entitled Brave New Judaism ex-
plains the genetic blueprint of all individuals. All humans alike are
built by their unique genetic DNA code, constructed with four
chemical building blocks, simplifed as the letters A, C, G and T.
When one letter or sequence of letters is “deleted” or “out of
order,” a gene mutation is created, affecting one’s genetic makeup
as a whole. Specifcally, the genes associated with breast cancer are
known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. When functioning properly, they
prevent and suppress uncontrolled cell growth; however, when
mutated, a cell whose growth should otherwise be suppressed
may grow uncontrollably and become cancerous. There are three
predominant gene mutations in the BRCA genes, two in BRCA1
and one in BRCA2. The genetic mutations in BRCA1 are desig-
nated “185delAG” and “5382insC”. In “185delAG,” the letters A
and G are missing in the 185th position on the BRCA1 gene [2].
In “5382insC,” the base C was inserted at the 5382 position on
the BRCA1 gene [3]. The mutation found in the BRCA2 gene is
known as “6174delT,” indicating that the letter T is missing in the
6174 position [2].
The risks for developing breast cancer vary among differ-
ent populations. Specifcally, Jews of Ashkenazi descent may be
at a greater risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers than
the general population [4]. According to Ari Mosenkis [3], the
“185delAG” mutation is present in 1% of Ashkenazi Jewish
women, the “5382insC” mutation in 0.1% of Ashkenazi Jewish
women, and the “6174delT” mutation in 0.9-1.5% of Ashkenazi
Jewish women. Thus, the total estimated carrier frequency for
breast and ovarian cancers in Ashkenazi Jewish women is around
2%, in striking contrast to the 0.1% of the general population
[2]. Finally, within the Ashkenazi Jewish female population that
has mutant forms of BRCA, the estimated risk of breast cancer
is 56% by the age of 70, which is four times that of non-carriers.
Additionally, for BRCA positive women with family histories of
With the advance of genetic screening,
does the biblical obligation to guard health
include genetic testing for the potentially
fatal brcA gene?
T
derech haTeva 9
the disease, their estimated risk of breast cancer is even higher,
with an estimated 85% risk by age 70 [3].
Wahrman notes, “It is important to understand that inherited
breast cancer genes probably cause no more than 10% percent of
all breast cancers” [2]. Furthermore, it is not certain that a woman
with a mutated BRCA gene will develop cancer; rather it means
that the woman is at higher risk for developing the pathology [1,
3, 5]. Wahrman interestingly mentions that scientists found that
BRCA1 and BRCA2 act like recessive genes; both copies of either
gene must be mutated, which is extremely rare, in order for can-
cer to develop [2]. While this should indicate that cancer is a rare
event since both copies of the gene would have to be mutated, it
is known all too well that cancer is not a rare occurrence. This is
due to the infrequent and unsystematic possibility that genes have
the capacity to mutate on their own. Thus, if a woman has already
inherited one faulty copy of the gene from one parent, all it takes
is one random mutation in the BRCA gene for cancer to develop.
As a result of potential random mutation of genes, as well as the
infuences of the environment, lifestyle, hormonal factors, and
other inherited traits, even women without mutant BRCA are at
an approximately 11.1% risk for developing breast cancer by age
80 [2].
How does BRCA ft into Torah and halacha? There is a statute
in the Torah, in Deuteronomy 4:15, which states that a Jew must
guard his soul – “vinishmartem miod linafshoteychem.” Traditionally,
this verse is understood to mean that one must guard his health.
According to Rabbi Dorff [1], there are two principles behind
the Jewish approach to health and medical care. Firstly, the body
belongs to G-d. Secondly, people have permission and an obliga-
tion to heal [1]. In regards to the former, because an individual’s
body belongs to G-d and not to the individual, the individual has
a duty to maintain his body as best as possible. Our bodies are on
loan to us by G-d from the time that we are born until the time
that we die, similar to the loan of an apartment, like Dorff men-
tions. In the duration that the apartment is on loan, suffcient care
must be taken in preserving it. One cannot treat it recklessly for it
is not his or hers. So too, with our bodies – when our bodies are
on loan to us during our lifetime, we must take care of them and
preserve them, be it through seeing a doctor when sick, proper
hygiene, exercise, sleep, etc. [1]. When we die, our bodies are re-
turned to G-d, hopefully in the same pristine and pure condition
in which they were given. The question therefore arises that when
man maintains possession of his body during his lifetime, to what
extent may he treat his body without playing G-d?
The extent to which the statute to guard health applies is
extremely controversial due to the concern that one may come to
“play G-d.” Moreover, the strides that have been made in medicine
and genetics—for example, genetic screening, genetic engineer-
ing, and genetic therapy—make this question even more trouble-
some and inconclusive. With the advance of genetic screening,
does the biblical obligation to guard health include genetic testing
for the potentially fatal BRCA gene? Should mass screenings of
the Ashkenazi Jewish female population be instated, for perhaps,
not screening constitutes a danger to life, sakanat nefashot? Or, is
the risk of causing mental anguish enough to make genetic testing
not obligatory? If a woman is tested positive for the BRCA gene,
must she disclose this information to a potential suitor? If a fetus
is found to have a mutant BRCA gene, indicating that it has a
higher risk for cancer, may the fetus be aborted? And fnally when
gene therapy becomes available to humans, will it be permissible
to fx the mutated gene before cancer occurs? On taking such
proactive steps, Rabbi Dorff asks, “Is it proper to tamper with
the genetic destiny by fxing the germ line...? At what point do we
“cease legitimately to be G-d’s partners in creation and become
instead G-d’s substitute, “playing G-d,” as it were, in changing the
nature of species? [1]”
The answers to these questions are not absolute; one must
always consult with his rabbinical leader. However, one thing is
clear, as states Rabbi Dorff, “…human medical research and prac-
tice are not violations of G-d’s prerogatives but, on the contrary,
constitute some of the ways in which we fulfll our obligations to
be G-d’s partners in the ongoing act of creation” [1]. By pursu-
ing medical research and treating patients, man is in fact fulflling
his obligation to join with G-d in continuing creation. Thus, it is
appropriate to deduce that methods performed to cure disease
at its root, perhaps by changing an individual’s “genetic destiny,”
through genetic engineering, would be permissible [1, 2]. For ex-
ample, Dorff sanctions that when gene therapy becomes avail-
able to repair cancer genes, Jews will be obligated to use those
treatments before the cancer develops. He explains that the same
way that man’s duty to prevent illness applies to disease caused by
bacteria, viruses, or environmental causes, so too, the duty applies
to diseases caused by faulty genes [1].
The question of mass genetic screening for BRCA now
comes to the forefront. Should the entire Ashkenazi Jewish popu-
lation be tested for this potentially fatal gene? Mosenkis mentions
the possibility that “mass screening for BRCA may actually be
halachikally obligated, as not screening may constitute a poten-
tial danger to life, or sakanat nefashot [3]. Karen Rothenberg, J.D,
M.P.A., lists the benefts and risks of predictive testing. While the
10 derech haTeva
benefts are medical benefts, the risks are not; they are of a dif-
ferent nature – a social and psychological nature [6]. She notes the
following benefts: “Test results will relieve uncertainty; promote
early detection, surveillance, prevention, and intervention strate-
gies; enable us to better plan for the future; infuence reproductive
decision-making; and give us information to share with blood rel-
atives, particularly children, so that they can better assess their risk
for cancer” [6]. Mosenkis focuses on two other main benefts- the
potential to preserve health and the alleviation of mental anguish,
whether a positive or negative test result is achieved [3].
In contrast to the medical benefts, the risks of mass genetic
screening are of a different nature. Rothenberg continues, “…
genetic information will increase anxiety; change self-image; al-
ter family relationships; create social and group stigma; impact
on privacy and confdentiality, and result in both insurance and
employment discrimination” [6]. In addition to the psychologi-
cal risks, Mosenkis states that mass genetic screening has the po-
tential to yield false positives, resulting in unnecessary worry, as
well as “complacency when there should be vigilance” [3]. More-
over, medical benefts such as mammography are not even one
hundred percent reliable [3]. Finally, Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler,
Rosh HaYeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary,
discourages mass screening for two reasons. Firstly, it may lead
to discrimination and stigmatization, specifcally from potential
mates [3]. And secondly, genetic testing for BRCA is an issue of
“tyranny of knowledge;” knowledge of one’s BRCA status will
bring about anxiety and mental anguish because there is no defni-
tive cure [4]. Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, Department of Radiology of
Albert Einstein Medical College, Philadelphia and a professor of
Jewish Medical Ethics, has said, “We generally approach knowl-
edge as a liberating force. Knowledge is power. Knowledge makes
us the master of our fate. But sometimes knowledge becomes the
master and makes us the servants...when information causes anxi-
ety but offers no way to reduce that anxiety, it controls us” [4]. For
the aforementioned reasons, it is clear that mass predictive testing
may not be a defnite method to pursue; perhaps only the at-risk
groups should be screened. The question is, however: who is the
at-risk population? Is it the general Ashkenazi Jewish population?
Is it just women with a family history of breast cancer? Are men
included in the at-risk population? How strong of a family history
warrants genetic screening?
Mosenkis writes that some secular medical authorities advised
that only women with strong family histories of breast cancer, i.e.,
three or more family members diagnosed before the age of ffty,
be screened for BRCA. Similarly, some national cancer organiza-
tions advise that screening should only be done for women who
have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, to help them de-
cide between more aggressive or more conservative therapies or
for research purposes. In identifying the at-risk population to be
tested, a very important question is whether carrying a BRCA
mutation is considered sakanat nefashot – a potential danger to life
- and if so, then screening could be obligatory [3]. Dorff believes
that the at-risk population has a positive obligation to undergo
genetic screening based on two principles [1]. First, if the woman
tests positive for the BRCA mutation, she will grow more accus-
tomed to check herself regularly, as well as to maintain the rec-
ommended mammogram scans. Second, the woman will be open
to the option of a mastectomy; although it is not guaranteed to
prevent breast cancer from developing, it will reduce the woman’s
risk by a considerable amount [1, 3, 4]. According to a recent
study, thirty-year-old women who carry the BRCA mutation and
undergo prophylactic mastectomy gained an average of three to
fve years of life [3].
In regard to aborting a baby with the BRCA mutation, Dorff
states that it is clear that an abortion would not be sanctioned,
for numerous reasons. First, carrying the BRCA mutation does
not guarantee that cancer will develop, rather it signifes that the
individual has a higher risk for cancer than the individual without
the mutation. Second, the age at which cancer may develop in
the individual carrying the BRCA mutation varies from person to
person; an individual may only develop cancer at the age of 70, in
which case she has lived the majority of her life as a healthy indi-
vidual. Third, it is possible that by the time the fetus would reach
the age for increased risk of developing cancer, more effective
treatments or even possibly a cure will have been developed [1].
When considering the obligation or permission to test for
a mutated BRCA gene, a practical question emerges – the ques-
We generally approach knowledge as
a liberating force. Knowledge is power.
Knowledge makes us the master of our
fate. but sometimes knowledge becomes
the master and makes us the servants...
when information causes anxiety but offers
no way to reduce that anxiety, it controls
us.
derech haTeva 11
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to publicly extend my warmest gratitude to my parents, Sheila and Ronny Apfel, for their constant support of my studies and for providing me
with so much love and devotion throughout my life. I would also like to thank Dr. Babich for encouraging me to write this article, for providing the articles
that enabled me to pursue this project, for taking the time to review the science content, and for assisting me in the pursuit of my career. Finally, I’d like to
thank my sister-in-law, Yakira Apfel, for editing my work and helping me to explore this complex area of halacha and science.
referenceS
[1] Dorff, E.M. (1997) Jewish theological and moral refections on genetic screening: The case of BRCA1. Hlth. Matrix. 7:65-96.
[2] Wahrman, M.Z. (2002). Brave New Judaism: When Science and Scripture Collide. Brandeis University Press, University of New England. Lebanon,
NH.
[3] Mosenkis, A. (1997). Genetic screening for breast cancer susceptibility: A Torah -perspective. J. Halacha Contemp. Soc. 34:5-26.
[4] John, L. Genetic Health. Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Genetic Diseases in Askenazi Jews. http://www.genetichealth.com/BROV_Gen_Dis_in_Ashk_
Jews.shtml#Anchor4. (retrieved January 20, 2011).
[5] Eisenberg, D. Genetic Screening for Breast Cancer Genes. Aish.com. http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48956151.html. (retrieved January 20, 2011).
[6] Rothenberg, K.H. (1997). Breast cancer, the genetic “quick fx,” and the Jewish community. Hlth, Matrix. 7:97-124.
tion of confdentiality. In relation to potential mates, it can be a
very sensitive subject. In Judaism, much value is placed on truth
and honesty; however there are also times where one is obligated
to withhold the truth. In terms of telling potential mates, Rabbi
Dorff believes that the woman would in fact be obligated to dis-
close her medical information to her potential suitor. Firstly, it is
only fair for her potential husband to know that she is at a higher
risk for breast cancer than the general population; he must enter
the marriage with informed consent. Secondly, the woman must
tell her potential husband because this BRCA mutation could in-
fuence the age at which they decide to conceive for the threat of
developing cancer may require her to have children early in their
marriage and surely her husband must have a part in that decision
[1]. Next, the author of Sefer Chasidim, Rabbi Judah the Pious,
rules that potential spouses must reveal to each other any physi-
cal defects and if they do not, then their marriage is void. In a
similar vein, the Chofetz Chaim, rules that disclosure of medical
information by a third party that may impact the suitor’s deci-
sion to marry does not constitute the issur deorayta of tale bearing.
Therefore, Dr. Avraham S. Avraham of the Nishmat Avraham,
asserts that a parent is obligated to reveal medical information to
a child’s potential suitor. It is interesting to note however, that Dr.
Avraham rules that a third party is in fact not obligated to reveal
such information, although it is permitted. In addition to inform-
ing potential suitors, Rabbi J. David Bleich holds that potential
employers be notifed of any illness that may come into confict
with the employee’s work. It is unclear whether a BRCA mutation
is included in this category, however one may be able to argue that
it is. Thus, there may be an obligation for the BRCA carrier or the
BRCA carrier’s parents to disclose such information to potential
employers or insurance agencies if that knowledge may impact
their decision to hire them or act as their insurance agent [3]. Nev-
ertheless, one should always seek out rabbinical leadership.
The halachik issues surrounding BRCA span and affect a
number of relationships - not only between man and G-d, but
also between man and man and between man and himself. How-
ever, the primary questions that emerge within each context differ
greatly: is the act of genetic testing a false assumption of the role
of G-d? Can knowing the result of a genetic test be detrimental to
one’s psychological health and therefore not permitted? Can that
knowledge impact a family dynamic, or terminate an impending
marriage? The concerns involved in genetic testing touches upon
everything from the esoteric to the painfully tangible. Short of
closing this article with a non-committal assertion that the topic
of genetic testing is exceedingly challenging and ever-so-complex,
there is a key, albeit implicit reality that is woven throughout the
topic’s exploration – and indeed, infuences any choice made in
this arena.
g
12 derech haTeva
rebecca benhaghnazar
A W r i n K l e i n P A r e n T h o o d
ow Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years; the
manner of women had ceased to be with Sarah. And
Sarah laughed at herself saying, ‘After I have withered
shall I again have delicate skin?’” (Genesis 18:11-
12). Due to her advanced age, Sarah our matriarch, considered
conception to be as great a miracle as the resurrection of the
dead, which could only be accomplished by G-d. According
to some commentaries, such as Radak and Sforno, she was
postmenopausal. The Midrashic interpretation claimed that her
menstrual cycle resumed after many years, telling of her ability
to give birth; she thought this was a random occurrence, not a
miracle, otherwise she would not have laughed. (Rashi). Sure
enough, G-d granted her a child, as the verse says, “And Sarah
conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the time
of which God had spoken to him” (Genesis 21:2). According
to the Ma’am Loez her menstrual cycle resumed allowing her
to conceive. It seems that Sarah experienced backtracking; she
had already been through menopause, but her period resumed
allowing her to conceive.
Postmenopausal bleeding has a plethora of potential causes,
including hormonal imbalance, nutrition and insulin resistance,
weight loss, emotional stress; such bleeding could even be an in-
dication of endometrial cancer. But none of the preceding are in-
dications of what Sarah must have experienced as her menstrual
tract resumed after years of menopause. There are instances of
women who do not undergo menopause until later in life and
surprisingly conceive at older ages. The oldest recorded natural
mother, a British woman by name of Dawn Brooke, gave birth to
her son in August of 1997 at the age of 59. She had not yet expe-
rienced menopause and naturally conceived [1]. There have been
no recorded instances of women who experience such backtrack-
ing like Sarah experienced.
It is important to note that the Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, a
Bible commentator, physicist, and physician of the 13
th
century,
more commonly known as Ralbag, offered an alternative expla-
nation. As opposed to other commentaries that focus on Sarah’s
age and postmenopausal status, Ralbag explained that Sarah and
Rachel’s infertility stemmed from their unhealthy medical con-
dition of obesity. Their husbands acquired concubines, and the
wives lost weight out of their jealousy. Through weight loss, Sarah
and Rachel were consequently able to become fertile and conceive
[2]. Ralbag’s explanation is reminiscent of the modern Polycystic
Ovary Syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS, a female en-
docrine disorder which is a cause of subfertlity with obesity as a
primary element [3].
Sarah is not the only biblical personality to conceive at an
older age. Rabbi Elie Munk cited Rashi who stated that Yocheved
was 130 years of age when she gave birth to Moshe. Ibn Ezra
noted that the text does not indicate the miracle of Yocheved’s
conceiving Moshe even though Yocheved was quite elderly at that
time. Ramban responds that Yocheved had already given birth to
Miriam and Aharon before Moshe and there was no indication
that she had been through menopause, as was the case with Sarah
[4].
Yitzchack’s name, which was commanded by Hashem to
Abraham, is indicative of the great marvel of his conception.
Yitzchack stems from the word Schock, meaning laughter. Rav
Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains that this name is signifcant as
by all the laws of nature the concept of his birth was “laugh-
able.” As noted by Rabbi Nosson Scherman in the Stone Chu-
mash, “The manner in which it happened that a woman who was
infertile in her youth had a child at the age of ninety established
the miraculous nature of God’s chosen people. G-d could just as
easily have given a child to Sarah in her prime, but that would not
have been perceived as demonstrating Divine intervention” [5].
There is no unanimous consensus for the cause of Sarah’s
infertility. From the Ralbag’s interpretation, which suggests that

n
This backtracking that Sarah experienced
defes the laws of nature. Such an event
of backtracking has not been recorded
in the history of medicine; it is a miracle
unfathomable to the human mind.
derech haTeva 13
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my parents for supporting me in all my endeavors. Additionally, I would like to thank Dr. Babich for his en-
couragement and for providing sources for this article. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to Rabbi Pilichowski for reviewing this article.
referenceS
[1] Farmer. B. (2007). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1560739/UK-woman-59-worlds-oldest-natural-mother.html/ (retrieved January 23,
2011).
[2] Ackerman, N. (2008-2009). Infertility: A Weighty Matter. Derech HaTeva, a Journal of Torah and Science. 13:7-9.
[3] Levinger, U. (2008). Obesity-associated infertility- the earliest known description. Reprod. BioMed Online. 17:5-6.
[4] Munk, Elie. (2003). The Call of the Torah, Shemos. Mesorah Publications,Ltd, Brooklyn, NY.
[5] Scherman, Nosson. Zolotowitz, Meir. The Stone Edition of the Chumash. Mesorah publications, Ltd, Brooklyn, NY.
Sarah suffered from PCOS, Sarah, similarly to Rachel, was barren
as a result of her obesity. As a result of participating in a polyga-
mous marriage, Sarah lost weight out of jealousy; therefore, Sarah
was able to become fertile and conceive, resulting in Yitzchack’s
birth. Ralbag’s account teaches the importance of maintaining a
healthy lifestyle. On the contrary, the Radak, Sforno, Rashi, and
the Ma’am Loez agree that Sarah was post-menopausal, and mi-
raculously at the age of ninety she received her period, enabling
her to conceive and give birth to Yitzchack. This backtracking
that Sarah experienced defes the laws of nature. Such an event
of backtracking has not been recorded in the history of medicine;
it is a miracle unfathomable to the human mind. Sarah becom-
ing impregnated at the age of ninety, after years of menopause,
and a history of infertility, is evidently a medical miracle convey-
ing God’s glory with His ability to perform on the supernatural
level..
g
14 derech haTeva
rachel bl i ni ck
A g i n g A n d l o n g e v i T y i n S c i e n c e A n d T A n A c h
ow long do you want to live? In recent years there has
been an increase in research on the causes of aging
and how to prolong life. New suggestions of how to
stay healthy and increase your lifespan are constantly
recommended. We are advised to exercise frequently, eat right,
not smoke, have a glass of wine a day, eat antioxidants, and a
whole host of other suggestions that have been recommended in
the last few years. Recent studies, though, have shown that what
really makes all the difference is genetics. To quote an expert on
aging, Steven Austad, “if you want to live to be a healthy eighty
year old, you have to eat right and exercise, et cetera. If you want to
live to be a healthy hundred year old, you have to have the right
parents”[1].
Why do people age? One of the largely accepted causes is
the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are produced during aero-
bic cellular respiration. Small levels of ROS are necessary for cell
function, but large amounts are believed to be harmful and even-
tually cause macromolecular damage that disturbs the homeosta-
sis of the cell and leads to aging [2]. This seems to hold true for
humans, but not for all animal species, which causes some doubt
about this theory [1].
In recent years several causes of aging, such as environmental
and epigenetic reasons, have been suggested, but one of the most
highly researched topics of aging today is genetics. In the 1930’s,
it was discovered that restricting the diet of laboratory animals
allowed them to live longer. This restricted diet inhibited tumor
development and many other chronic diseases and also allowed
the animals to be more active, and preserved their intellectual
functions [1]. When researchers realized that the diet had such
a profound impact, they looked at the various nutrient-sensing
pathways, such as the kinase target of rapamycin (TOR), sirtuins,
and insulin/insulin growth factor (IGF) signaling pathways. We
know today that genes regulate part of the aging process through
such nutrient receptor signaling pathways and transcription fac-
tors. Genes that increase lifespan are stress response genes or nu-
trient sensors that regulate gene function, kinase TOR or insulin.
When there is an abundance of food and little stress, these genes
support pathways that cause organisms to grow and reproduce.
When there is a lack of food, the genes cause the organism to
channel its resources into maintenance and repair. This shift pro-
tects the organism and lengthens its lifespan, so that it can repro-
duce when conditions improve [2].
We know that dietary restriction that inhibits insulin/IGF
signaling is connected to longevity, therefore, diets high in glu-
cose, that raise insulin/IGF signaling, probably shorten lifespan.
The same applies to TOR kinase, a nutrient sensor that stimulates
growth in the presence of high levels of food. When nutrients
are present, they stimulate growth by upregulating the translation
of certain genes. When diet is restricted in many animals, TOR
kinase is inhibited, thereby increasing lifespan [2]. It is important
to note that diet restriction studies have not been performed on
humans because of the will power needed for such a task, in ad-
dition to the risks that stem from anorexia. Diet restriction to
such an extent is counterproductive and causes damage to various
organs and to the entire body [1].
Studies on a nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, an organism
commonly used in the study of aging, identifed a mutation that
decreased the level of a hormone receptor similar to that for in-
sulin, which more than doubled its lifespan. Furthermore, these
mutant organisms looked and acted younger much after the wild
type (normal) worms aged [2].
In studies of centarians, or hundred year old people, it is ap-
parent that a long life was a family trait, since most had siblings
that age and had parents that died at that age. These centarians
had various mutations, which varied among different groups. A
group of Ashkenazi Jewish centarians expressed a mutation that
affected the IGF receptor, while a Japanese group of centarians
h
Perhaps biological perfection implies that
these earlier generations possessed some
of the “mutations” found in centarians
which contributed to their extended
lifespan.
derech haTeva 15
had mutations in the insulin receptor. Variants in the FOXO3A
gene have also been linked to longevity in different ethnicities, in-
cluding Ashkenazi Jews. Genetic mutations that postponed aging
also delayed age-related diseases [2].
Aging increases the risks of developing cancer, heart disease,
and diabetes. People who live to be a hundred years or more are
not immune to these diseases; they just acquire them later in life,
or the diseases progress at a slower rate. The age at which the
body begins to deteriorate is the factor that is genetically deter-
mined [1].
An interesting case study for examining the theological roots
of aging would be the generations that lived from Adam until
Abraham. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 5a), Adam was
created as an immortal creature. When Adam and Eve sinned by
eating from the tree, they were told by G-d that they would even-
tually die, meaning that their biological clocks were set and their
bodies would lose immortality [3]. Additionally, Adam and Eve
were expelled from the Garden of Eden, thereby exposing them
to all the non-genetic causes of death, such as accidents and dis-
eases [4]. Still, Adam and Eve and the generations after them lived
very long lives.
One of the reasons offered by Josephus as to their longev-
ity was their diet. Maimonides, (the Rambam) believed that the
longevity described in Genesis was a result of their diet and life-
style, but he maintained that it was unique to those generations
and was not found again [3]. The viewpoint that their diet was an
important aspect is fascinating, in the light of the importance of
the newly discovered nutrient receptors as factors in facilitating
aging.
This view of the Rambam was challenged by the Ramban,
Nahmanides, who believed that the generations who lived after
Adam lived long lives because of their biological perfection, which
was adversely effected by the food in the days of Noah [3]. This
Ramban is interesting because considering what we know about
the role of genetics in aging, perhaps biological perfection implies
that these earlier generations possessed some of the “mutations”
found in centarians which contributed to their extended lifespan.
One suggestion as to how the food adversely affected lifespan
was that it caused the replication of microfungi, which produced
highly toxic mycotoxins that affected the longevity of people af-
ter the food. Mycotoxins are responsible for various diseases
and disorders, including cancers and other diseases involving gene
mutations. Molds have always existed, but only produce their my-
cotoxins in suitable conditions such as high humidity. The food
provided conditions suitable for the growth of mycofungi, which
when airborne, polluted the air inhaled as well as contaminating
foods and drinks. The adverse health effects caused by myco-
toxins would have impacted not only those who lived through
the food, but the generations thereafter, hence shortening the
lifespan of their descendents [5].
An alternative explanation brought down by the Midrash Be-
reshis Rabbah (26:5) was that when Adam’s biological clock was
set, he still lived a long life, and this trait was inherited by his chil-
dren. This trait was maintained because those descendants mar-
ried amongst themselves. In the days of Noah, “The sons of G-d
(Adam’s descendants) saw the daughters of man (other people
alive at the time) and they were fair and they took for themselves
wives from all whom they chose” (Genesis 6:2). Adam’s descen-
dants intermarried which resulted in reduction of their children’s
lifespan [3]. After Adam’s descendants, the average lifespan
steadily declined throughout the generations. In the twenty frst
century though, we have seen the average lifespan increasing in
developed countries.
In recent years, hygiene and living conditions have improved,
as well as the invention of new methods to preserve food and lim-
it the growth of molds, thereby improving the health and lifespan
of people [5]. According to Jewish sources, longevity is one of
the aspects of the Messianic Age. According to the Talmud (San-
hedrin 99a), the era preceding the Messianic Age will not be a time
of miracles or of changes in nature, but rather, as implied by the
Rambam, it will be a time of technological and scientifc advance-
ments that we have witnessed in the past century with improve-
ments in health care and life in general [3].
Aging is a complex process that involves many factors and
the more we know about aging, the more we may be able to main-
tain our health. Both the Rambam and the Ramban realized that
there was an aspect of diet and “biological perfection” in longev-
ity, which we know today are both important aspects. As science
continues to investigate genetics, we can still do our part and eat
healthy, exercise, and take care of ourselves properly.
g
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank Dr. Babich for his encouragement and help in writing and editing this article. I would also like to extend a thank you to Rabbi Aaron
Cohen, Rabbi of Tifereth Israel of Passaic, NJ for editing the Torah content of this article. Additionally, I would like to thank my parents for their constant
support and encouragement in my education. Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to my friends and the editors for reviewing my article.
16 derech haTeva
referenceS
[1] Taubes, G. (2010). Live long and prosper. Discover. pp. 80-88 (October)
[2] Kenyon, C. (2010). The genetics of ageing. Nature. 464:504-512
[3] Kaplan, A. (1993). Longevity and Immortality in Judaic Sources. In Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe: A Kabbalistic View,. KT
Publishing House, Inc. Hoboken, NJ, pp. 17-27
[4] Aviezer, N. (2004). The extreme longevity of the early generations in genesis. B’Or Ha Torah. 14:73-80
[5] Schoental, R. (1987). Mycotoxins, the Flood, and human lifespan in the Bible. Koroth. 9:503-506
derech haTeva 17
Sari t cohen
d r e A M S : r e A l i T y o r f A n T A S y ?
dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not
read” (Berachot 55a). The Torah conveys to us that
dreams are Divine communications and prophecies
similar to the dreams of Yoseph and of Pharaoh. As
we can see in Numbers 12:6: “If there be a prophet among you…I
will speak to him in a dream.” Furthering this idea, the Talmud
tells us that dreams foreshadow the future. The Midrash (Bereshit
Rabbah 68:12) tells us that no dream is without interpretation.
Yet, the Talmud also states that dreams have no meaning and no
importance (Sanhedrin 30a) and in Tanach it states that “dreams
speak falsehood” (Zechariah 10:2) [1]. Do our dreams hold any
importance? Should we try to interpret them? Should we even
pay any attention to them? What exactly do our dreams mean and
where do they come from?
We spend six years of our life in dreams. For centuries, scien-
tists have been trying to understand the nature of dreams and their
meaning. Sigmund Freud claimed that all details of a dream have
signifcance. The feelings you experience in a dream are those that
were pushed out of your consciousness during the day and are
only expressed at night during our dreams. His theory stated that
dreams are for transferring our subconscious to our conscious-
ness. Unconscious drives and desires that would be threatening if
expressed directly are thus expressed through dreams. Instinctive
desires and experiences occur in a dream, while during waking
hours, logic rules [2]. Thousands of years earlier, our Torah had
told us the same thing. A dream is a “strong desire which is unful-
flled” (Yishayahu 29:8).
Other psychoanalysts suggested that the purpose of dreams
is to transfer temporarily stored memories into long term stor-
age. Dreams help sift, sort and fx the day’s experiences into our
memory. Psychoanalysts believe that the storage of memory in
our brain is effectuated through stories and parables. Dreams
are revelations of disorganized thoughts which are suppressed
during the day and revealed at night during sleep. Most rabbinic
commentators believe that dreams originate from the imaginative
recesses of the soul. Dreams come from ideas and impressions
one already knows, or from thoughts and expressions one has
perceived throughout the day [4]. In Berachot 55b, Rabbi Yonatan
stated: “a man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by
his own thoughts” [3]. Our dreams come from our own memo-
ries, experiences and thoughts. According to the Abarbanel, these
dreams have no meaning and one should pay no attention to
them. The Rabbis also tell us that even though the thoughts and
ideas in a dream are in part correct, there is still useless informa-
tion in the dream [4]. The psychoanalytical theory which stated
that our dreams sort out our memories and experiences seems to
complement our early rabbinic sources.
Before we start paying attention to our dreams, we must delve
into the notion of self-fulflling prophecy. “The self-fulflling
prophecy is, in the beginning, a false defnition of the situation
evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception
come ‘true’.” It is a prediction which causes itself to become true,
by infuencing people’s beliefs and behaviors [5]. The Thomas
Theorem states: “If men defne situations as real, they are real
in their consequences.” Once people convince themselves that a
certain perception has true meaning, they will take very real ac-
tions according to this false perception [6]. This causes our per-
ceptions or dreams to become reality by our very own actions,
not by the “truth” of the perception or dream. The perception
has no truth in and of itself, but holds truth to the viewer and
will thus cause him to behave in a certain way, thus leading to
the fulfllment of the false perception or dream. Centuries earlier,
our tradition has portrayed to us this same idea. The Talmud tells
us that a fulfllment of a dream depends on the suggestion of
the interpreter. The way that you defne and perceive your dream
may affect its fulfllment. In Berachot 55b, the students of Rabbi
Eleazer interpreted a dream for a woman by explaining that her
husband would die. Rabbi Eleazer chastised his students and told
centuries earlier we see the Talmud
speaking of something quite similar to
what we know of as the self- fulflling
prophecy.

A
18 derech haTeva
them that they have caused a man to die. Centuries earlier we see
the Talmud speaking of something quite similar to what we know
of as the self- fulflling prophecy. If a person perceives his dream
as true, he will now act in a certain way that he would not have
done otherwise, thereby causing the dream or prophecy to come
true [3].
We can now see how many various opinions there are regard-
ing the importance of dreams. Many books have been written
attempting to interpret dreams and relate their signifcance. The
Talmud and Tanach both tell us that dreams have no signifcance
whatsoever; while other rabbinic sources indicate that they do
have meaning for the future. Our rabbis considered some dreams
to have real signifcance, as seen from the laws of voiding a bad
dream and fasting for a bad dream. Some assert that dreams are
only partially true. This is based on Berachot 55a which stated:
“there cannot be a dream without some nonsense”. Some Kab-
balists hold that a whole dream is not fulflled, only part of a
dream is. These various opinions on dreams try to determine the
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my incredible parents for constantly supporting me throughout my educational career and for constantly encouraging me to pursue my
goals. I would also like to express my gratitude to my brother, Rabbi Ariel Cohen, for reviewing this article. And fnally, I would like to thank Dr. Babich for
his continual support and guidance.
referenceS
[1] Rosner, F. (2000). Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Bible and the Talmud. Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, NJ.
[2] Myers, D.G. (2005). Exploring Psychology, 6
th
Edition. Worth Publishers, New York, N.Y.
[3] Preuss, J. (1993). Biblical and Talmudic Medicine. Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, N.J.
[4] Steinberg, A. (1992). Dreams. J Halacha in Contemp. Soc. 23:101-121
[5] Merton, R.K. (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
[6] Thomas, W. I. (1928). The Child in America: Behavior Problems and Programs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
signifcance of dreams of ordinary people since the dreams of
prophets mentioned in Tanach clearly have meaning and signif-
cance. Our Rabbis taught that a very small percentage of dreams
may be teachings from heaven, if the person’s soul is very strong
and healthy. A dream whose contents deals with danger to a life,
we take to heart. If a dream does not deal with halacha and does
not contradict Jewish law, one should pay attention to this dream.
If a dream points to trouble for the world, one should try to nul-
lify it with fasting. However, most dreams are questionable in va-
lidity and therefore hold no authority in matters of halacha. Most
rabbis wrote that one should not accept the authority of a dream
at all since halacha is “not in heaven” and because dreams “speak
falsehood” (Zechariya 10:2) [4]. We can see that while our Rab-
bis have decided to take the road of caution when one’s dream
represents danger, most of our sources indicate that dreams hold
no real importance as Iyov tells us: dreams are “something feeting
which rapidly evaporates” (Iyov 20:8).
g
derech haTeva 19
batya edel man
A n i M A l e x P e r i M e n T A T i o n : A h A l A c h i c
P e r S P e c T i v e
nimal testing has always been a controversial subject.
There are valid arguments for both the use and
termination of animal testing. In response to such
arguments, many government agencies have passed
laws that permit animal testing while simultaneously protecting
the animal’s rights and preventing animal abuse. Rabbinic
literature addresses the question of animal testing, that will be
further explored in this article.
Animals have been used to enhance the study of science for
centuries and are used today for a variety of reasons. The earli-
est sources of animal experimentation are Greek documents that
included descriptions of animal dissections. Since then, humans
have used animals to learn more about themselves and the world
around them. Animals’ physiological similarities to humans allow
them to be used in studies of human behavior, diseases, and de-
velopment. There are many ways in which animals are used in
research, but the broader categories include pure research, ap-
plied research, toxicology, drug testing, xenotransplantation, and
breeding. In pure research, scientists use animals to study the de-
velopment, function, and behavior of humans as well as to further
general scientifc knowledge. Applied research refers to research
conducted to answer a specifc question. This would include any
study conducted to fnd the source or cure for a disease. Toxicol-
ogy testing is performed to determine if a drug is toxic or carci-
nogenic before it is put on the market. Drug testing, similarly, is
used to determine the effcacy of drugs before they are sold to the
public. Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of live
tissue into a different species. This allows scientists to experiment
on human tissue without affecting a real person. Experimentation
using animal breeding generally deals with evolution and genetics
[1-4].
Rabbinic leaders also look to address the issue of animal test-
ing. Many sources in the Torah and in halacha would lead one to
believe that animal testing is prohibited. Shemot 23:5 notes that
one should help even the donkey of his enemy if it is suffering
under a burden. A Jew must remove what encumbers a helpless
animal even if it leads one to assist his enemy. Additionally, the
Rambam explained that the reason behind the law of shechitah (ko-
sher slaughter) is to reduce the pain of the animal as much as pos-
sible [5, 6]. Shechitah demands that the knife be sharpened without
any notches to ensure that the animal undergoes as painless and
quick a death as possible. Furthermore, Devarim 25:4 notes that
one may not muzzle an ox while it plows a feld. It is signifcant
that the Torah takes into consideration the manner in which an
owner treats his animal, as it would be cruel for an ox to plow a
feld of food without being able to eat from it [5]. Finally, the law
of tzaar baalei chayim prohibits the causing of unnecessary pain to
an animal. Animals subject to testing may feel pain and suffering,
particularly if they are not cared for properly and are subject to
cruel treatment [7]. These commandments demand that humans
take responsibility for the well-being of animals by helping to
eliminate unnecessary burdens, and by forbidding pain infiction
upon an animal. Uncontrolled or thoughtless experimentation on
animals involves inficting undue harm on animals, which con-
tradicts the spirit of these laws. If these mitzvot demand that
people relieve animal stress, surely harmful experimentation on
animals would be frowned upon. One application of this would
be regarding toxicology testing. Toxicology testing may cause an
animal to develop cancer, which would be painful to the animal
and a potential violation of tzaar baalei chayim. The prohibition
of causing pain to an animal is highlighted in the story of Balaam
(Bamidbar 22:32-33) when the angel of Hashem reprimanded
Balaam after he hit his donkey three times. Because Balaam was
scolded for inficting pain upon his donkey, it can be inferred that
such an infiction of pain is forbidden [5].
Many great leaders of Bnei Yisroel were shepherds who were
sensitive to animals’ needs. Moshe Rabbeinu was chosen to be the
A
hashem, Who is abundantly merciful
and compassionate, created animals and
continues to care for their needs. likewise,
Jews must strive to be merciful and
compassionate and care for animals.
20 derech haTeva
leader of Bnei Yisroel only after he cared for a fock of animals.
The Rabbis taught that when a kid from his fock fed, Moshe
chased it. When the kid stopped to drink at a river, Moshe said,
“I didn’t realize that you were running because you were thirsty.
Now you must be tired!” (Rabbi Cohen). He then carried the kid
back to the fock. Hashem saw Moshe’s compassion and only
then declared him to be qualifed to take the Jews out of Egypt.
Dovid Hamelech was also a shepherd before becoming king of Bnei
Yisroel. He showed signs of compassion and sensitivity by tending
to the weak and helpless. Moshe and Dovid were great leaders of
Bnei Yisroel because they possessed the qualities necessary to lead
and care for the needs of the people [7].
The ideals of sensitivity and compassion are also necessary
for the ordinary Jew. Jews are commanded to walk in the ways of
Hashem. Hashem, Who is abundantly merciful and compassion-
ate, created animals and continues to care for their needs. Like-
wise, Jews must strive to be merciful and compassionate and care
for animals [5]. By tolerating animal testing, which inficts pain
upon animals, a person may become callous and insensitive. Prov-
erbs 12:10 states: “The righteous one knows the needs of his ani-
mal’s soul, but the mercies of the wicked are cruel.” A righteous
person cares for and understands the needs of his animal, while a
wicked person is cruel and does the opposite [9]. Animal testing
causes pain to an animal and could therefore be viewed as an act
of the wicked [5, 7, 9].
While it is forbidden to needlessly cause pain to animals,
there are many instances in which one is allowed to derive beneft
from animals, and it is in such instances that animal testing is
permitted. The simplest example of the permissibility of deriv-
ing beneft from animals is that man is allowed to kill animals
for food. Bereishit 9:3 states: “Every moving thing that lives shall
be food for you.” Animals may be killed for a human to beneft
from their meat. The Talmud (Chullin 85b) described a situation
in which the killing of an animal is encouraged. Rabbi Hiyya had
a pile of fax that became infested with worms. Rebbi advised
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to extend my gratitude to my parents for their support and encouragement to pursue my dreams. I would also like to thank Dr. Babich for his
help in completing this article, and Rabbi Kelemer of the Young Israel of West Hempstead for reviewing the article for the halachic content.
referenceS
[1] Lloyd, E. (2008). Animal Experimentation: Uses of Animals in Research. Bright Hub. http://www.brighthub.com/science/medical/articles/16238.aspx
(retrieved January 5, 2011).
[2] Lloyd, E. (2008). Animal Experimentation: History. Bright Hub. http://www.brighthub.com/science/medical/articles/16237.aspx (retrieved January 6,
2011).
him to slaughter a bird over a tub of water so that the worms
would be attracted to the blood and leave the fax. In this man-
ner, harming a bird helped Rabbi Hiyya monetarily. Therefore,
even for monetary motivations one was permitted to cause pain
to animals. This may be because the Rabbis considered animals as
created for the use of humans. In Shabbat 77b, Rav declared that
each of Hashem’s creations has a purpose to beneft humans. He
created a snail that helps heal a scab and a fy that serves as an
antidote for a hornet’s sting. Everything was created to beneft
humans in some way. If so, animal testing must be permissible.
The Shulchan Aruch noted that inficting pain upon animals is per-
missible if such an act directly serves to medically assist humans.
According to this logic, applied research is permissible to cure
human diseases. Other types of research would also be allowed,
as many of them strive to treat human illnesses or prevent harm.
The author of Shvut Yaakov permitted the use of animal testing
to determine the effect of medications [7]. Additionally, many
Rabbis in the Talmud illustrated a thorough knowledge of ani-
mal anatomy, physiology, pathology and medicine in general. As
noted in Chullin 57b, “The medical knowledge of the Talmudist
was based upon tradition, the dissection of human bodies, obser-
vation of disease, and experiments upon animals” [10]. If these
great Rabbis performed experiments on animals, then it seems
that animal testing is permitted.
Halachic rulings give legitimacy to animal testing, but discour-
age one from causing more harm than necessary. Animal ex-
perimentation should only be carried out if there is a signifcant
amount of knowledge or beneft that could be obtained, and no
other trial methods are available. Animals subject to experimenta-
tion should be treated with care, with all their physical and psy-
chological needs met, and with every attempt made to reduce pain
and discomfort. To make the world a better place is a goal that
every human should strive for, but to lose one’s sense of human-
ity and compassion to attain a better world is worthless.
g
derech haTeva 21
[3] Other Uses of Animals in Testing Procedures. About Animal Testing. http://www.aboutanimaltesting.co.uk/other-uses-animals-testing-procedures.html
(retrieved January 5, 2011).
[4] Animal Testing. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_testing (retrieved January 7, 2011).
[5] Bleich, J. D. (1986). Judaism and animal experimentation. Tradition, 22: 1-36.
[6] Rosner, F. (1986). Animal Experimentation: The Jewish View. The 1986 Jewish Directory and Almanac. Franklin Watts Inc.
[7] Cohen, Rabbi A. S. (1986). Animal experimentation. J. of Halacha Contemp. Soc. 11: 19-32.
[8] Monea, M. J. (1988). Animals – Biblical and laboratory. Hospit. Pract. 23: 23-24.
[9] Schwartz, R. H. and Sears, D. (2000). Is Fur a Jewish Issue?. Chai Online. http://www.chai-online.org/en/compassion/judaism/heritage_judaism_fur.
htm (retrieved January 5, 2011).
[10] Rust, J. H. (1982). Animal models for human diseases. Perspect. Biol. Med. 25: 662-672.
[11] Baumans, V. (2004). Use of animals in experimental research: an ethical dilemma? Gene Therapy. 11: 64-66.
[12] Jachter, Rabbi H. (1992). Halachic perspectives on pets. J. Halacha Contemp. Soc. 23: 33-62.
[13] Rosner, F. (1985). Is animal experimentation being threatened by animal Rights groups? JAMA. 253: 1942-1943
22 derech haTeva
esti feder
S M o K i n g : P e r S o n A l d i S c r e T i o n o r h A l A c h i c
v i o l A T i o n ?
e very careful to guard your soul” (Deuteronomy
4:15). This pasuk in the Torah has classically been
used by rabbanim throughout Jewish history to
promote preserving one’s health through proper diet
and exercise [1]. However, one wonders if this pasuk pertains only
to proactive, health-promoting actions such as daily exercise and
proper nutrition. Does the halachic commandment to preserve
health also apply to refraining from hazardous behaviors such as
smoking?
Although smoking was once advocated as salutary, in mod-
ern times there is no longer any doubt that cigarette smoking is
a danger to one’s health. An overwhelming amount of medical
evidence has proven that cigarette smoking is associated with ad-
verse health effects and a shortened life expectancy [2]. Statistics
have shown that damaged health due to smoking account for an
estimated 443,000 deaths per year, or nearly 1 in every 5 deaths.
The myriad negative effects of smoking include damage to the
cardiovascular and respiratory systems, cancer, and decreased fer-
tility in women [3].
For example, smoking reduces circulation by narrowing the
blood vessels. This can lead to coronary heart disease, periph-
eral vascular disease (obstruction of large arteries in the arms
and legs), or abdominal aortic aneurysm (a swelling or weakening
of the main artery of the body, the aorta, where it runs through
the abdomen). In the respiratory system, smoking causes lung
cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic airway obstruction.
Smoking is also the major cause of many different types of can-
cers, including cancer of the esophagus, larynx, pharynx, and oral
cavity. An increased risk of cancer can cause infertility in women
and puts pregnant women at a risk for preterm delivery and still-
births. Babies born to smokers often have low birth weights and
an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking also
increases the risk of stroke. Clearly, smoking harms nearly every
organ of the body and can increase the risk of or even cause
many different diseases [3].
Despite all of these devastating health affects, many people
are still addicted to smoking and cannot stop this destructive be-
havior. Smoking is addictive due to the chemicals in the tobacco.
The main drug component of tobacco is nicotine, a psychoactive
drug with stimulant effects on the brain. Nicotine acts on the
receptor in the brain usually used by the major neurotransmit-
ter, acetylcholine, known as the nicotinic receptor. Acetylcholine
is involved in arousal and reward, and it activates the “pleasure
centers” of the brain, such as the mesolimbic dopamine system.
Therefore, when nicotine acts on the acetylcholine receptor, it can
reproduce the effects of acetylcholine on the body, leading to a
sense of calmness [4].
When smoke is inhaled, nicotine enters the blood stream
through the lungs. When tobacco is chewed, the nicotine can
enter the body through the lining of the mouth, known as the
buccal mucosa. Smokers can develop a tolerance to nicotine, and
therefore need to increase their doses in order to feel the same
effects when they frst began smoking. If a smoker tries to quit,
nicotine withdrawal can cause a host of physiological and emo-
tional symptoms. This is because after continual use of nicotine,
the body produces more acetylcholine receptors in an attempt to
restore the normal function of the body despite what it perceives
as “extra acetylcholine”. Therefore, when these “extra doses”
are withdrawn, there are many uncomfortable physiological ef-
fects produced by the now-useless extra receptors. Some of the
withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, headaches, dry
mouth, cravings to smoke, irritability, sore tongue and/or gums,
and tightness in the chest. Although withdrawal symptoms are
temporary, they can be very uncomfortable while they last and
many people avoid quitting due to fear of withdrawal symptoms
[4].
With all these statistics and facts in mind, it would seem clear

b
The rabbanim concluded that smoking of
cigarettes constituted a blatant violation of
the Torah commandment against inficting
harm on oneself and therefore is prohibited
according to halacha.
derech haTeva 23
that smoking should be in violation of the dictum, “Be very care-
ful to guard your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:15). However, the stance
of the rabbanim on this issue of smoking and halacha is not so
easily defned. Perhaps one of the most signifcant obstacles to
a decision to prohibit smoking halachically was the stance of the
late Posek HaDor, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. Rabbi Feinstein
strongly urged people to stop smoking and discouraged non-
smokers from developing the habit; however he was unwavering
in his position that smoking cannot be banned based on halachic
grounds. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein argued that, based on the prin-
ciple of “Shomer Psayim Hashem”- G-d protects the simple - which
states that even if a specifc action possibly entails danger, if peo-
ple are willing to take the risk then one cannot forbid people from
that action (Psalms 116:6, Shabbat 129b and Niddah 45a) [5].
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was not alone in his position; Rabbi
J. David Bleich wrote an article in the 1970’s about smoking in
which he stated that smoking should not be prohibited by halacha.
Just like Rabbi Feinstein, he explained that certain actions which
contain an element of danger, such as crossing the street or riding
in a car, are permissible because these dangers are accepted with
equanimity by society at large. Therefore, a person who partakes
in these activities can rely upon the dictum that “G-d protects the
simple” (Psalms 116:6, Shabbat 129b and Niddah 45a) [2].
In contrast to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who avoided an out-
right prohibition of smoking, an earlier commentator had a dif-
ferent position. The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, zt”l,
who died in 1933, categorically prohibited smoking, pointing out
that it is harmful to both the body and the soul and thus causes
one to neglect Torah study [2]. Many contemporary rabbanim have
joined the Chofetz Chaim in his opinion, including Rav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, Rav Efraim Greenblatt, shlita, Rav Eliezer
Waldenburg, shlita, Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal, shlita, and Rav Ova-
dia Yosef, shlita. All of the aforementioned rabbanim categorically
came out with the opinion that smoking is against halacha. Many
of the rabbanim explained that the dictum of “G-d protects the
simple,” invoked by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in his teshuva about
smoking, cannot apply to this situation. For example, Rav Eliezer
Waldenburg explained that “G-d protects the simple” can only
apply in a case where life experiences indicate that people are pro-
tected from the risks of a certain activity. However, as Rav Avig-
dor Nebenzahl stated, we can clearly see in our modern day that
G-d is not protecting smokers [6]!
Many present-day rabbanim have also attempted to rebut the
decision of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, by claiming that with the ir-
refutable medical knowledge available to our generation today,
the arguments set forth by Rabbi Feinstein are now no longer
valid. In 2005 an article was published by the rabbanim of the Rab-
binical Council of America, in which they brought Rabbi Moshe
Feinstein’s arguments under analysis, and stated that for the rule
of “G-d protects the simple” to apply, two conditions must be
present. Firstly, the activity must only present a possible danger
to the individual, and secondly, most people must be willing to
take the risk involved in pursuing the activity. The rabbanim argued
that at the time that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made his decision,
both of those factors seemed to indicate that there was no ba-
sis to halachically ban smoking. However, in our day, the scientifc
evidence undoubtedly proves that smoking is not only a possible
danger, but rather a defnite danger. Additionally, in recent years,
due to the large anti-smoking educational effort in America, many
people have stopped smoking. This may change the halachic status
of smoking to a risk that most people are not willing to chance.
Therefore, since both of the conditions of Rabbi Moshe Fein-
stein’s original response are no longer applicable, the rabbanim
concluded that smoking of cigarettes constituted a blatant viola-
tion of the Torah commandment against inficting harm on one-
self and therefore is prohibited according to halacha [5].
Another article published in 2006 by the Va’ad Halacha of the
RCA, chaired by Rabbi Asher Bush, concluded with the unequiv-
ocal ruling that smoking is clearly and unquestionably forbidden
by halacha. One important opinion mentioned in the article was a
statement made by Rabbi J. David Bleich, shlita. Rabbi Bleich said
“it appears that the cumulative risks of lung cancer, cardiovascular
disease and respiratory illness will, in the aggregate, foreshorten
the lives of the majority of smokers. If the majority of smokers
do indeed face premature death as a result of cigarette smoking
there is, according to the Binyan Tzion’s thesis, no halachic basis for
sanctioning the practice even though the multitude continues ‘to
tread thereon.’” Rabbi Bleich further explained that Rabbi Moshe
Feinstein was correct in his ruling on smoking based on the in-
formation available to him in his day. However, it is most likely
that at present the conditions which led to his lenient ruling no
longer apply [6].
In his article on “Cigarette Smoking and Jewish Law,” Dr.
Fred Rosner, past Chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee
for the State of New York and professor of medicine, brought a
statement from the Rambam’s classic work Mishneh Torah to prove
that smoking was a halachic prohibition. The Rambam enumerated
a variety of prohibitions, all based upon the pesukim “take heed to
thyself and take care of thy life” (Deuteronomy 4:9) and “be very
careful to guard your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:15). Thus, Rambam
24 derech haTeva
stated that many things are forbidden by the Sages because they
are dangerous to life. He asserted that if one disregards prohi-
bitions simply because he wants to put himself in danger or is
not particular about such things, he must be punished. Based on
this position of the Rambam, it seems obvious that placing one’s
health or life into possible danger is prohibited by halacha. There-
fore, the smoking of cigarettes, which has been irrefutably shown
to be a danger to one’s life, should be prohibited [2]. Dr. Ros-
ner brought further proof from the pasuk, “And make an atone-
ment for him, for that he sinned regarding the soul” (Numbers
6:11 ), in which the nazarite is called a sinner because he deprived
himself of wine. The Talmud quoted Rabbi Elazar Hakapar who
derived from this pasuk that a man may not injure himself. Rabbi
Elazar Hakapar continued that a person who damages his health
by injuring himself is considered a sinner. Dr. Rosner extended
this reasoning to include smoking, by claiming that one who in-
tentionally endangers his health and life by smoking is transgress-
ing the Jewish law of injuring oneself. Dr. Rosner went as far as
to say that smoking may in fact constitute a slow form of suicide,
which is absolutely prohibited by Jewish law based upon the pa-
suk, “and surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require”
(Genesis 9:5) [2].
Another issue directly related to smoking, is secondhand
smoke, which has a more defnitive conclusion amongst the pos-
kim. The statistics for secondhand smoke show that each year,
primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke, an esti-
mated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer, more
than 46,000 die of heart disease, and 150,000 to 300,000 children
younger than 18 months have lower respiratory tract infections.
Secondhand smoke exposure can cause a variety of health prob-
lems including heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory infec-
tions, ear problems, sudden infant death syndrome, and more fre-
quent and severe asthma attacks in children [7]. There is a pasuk
in the Torah that states, “Forty shall you strike him, he shall not
add” (Deuteronomy 25:3), which discusses about the number of
strokes mandated upon a convicted criminal. If the administrator
of the strokes exceeds the 40 strokes, he is himself liable for as-
sault and thus the punishments mandated for that crime. It can
be clearly seem from this pasuk that according to Torah law, it
is forbidden for one individual to harm another, and that one
transgresses a negative commandment if he does so. Therefore,
in accordance with the scientifc evidence that smoking can cause
harm to others through secondhand smoke, smoking in the pres-
ence of non-smokers should be prohibited by halacha [5].
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was of this opinion, asserting that
if the exhaled smoke is harmful to others in close proximity to
the smoker, the smoker is obligated to smoke in private or far re-
moved from other people [2]. Rabbi Feinstein claimed that people
harmed by the smoke of others would be empowered by halacha
to sue for damages [5]. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, a colleague of
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rav Ovadia Yosef, also categorically
forbade smoking in public places [8]. An article published in 2005
in a Jewish Medical Ethics journal by the rabbanim of the RCA,
therefore concluded that rabbinical leaders and communities were
obligated by halacha to ban smoking at all functions, meetings,
buildings and facilities under their jurisdiction, both to secure the
observance of halacha and to protect the physical welfare of their
members [5].
The different views of poskim on smoking and halacha are
linked by a common theme. Whether or not smoking should be
prohibited by halacha, all rabbanim agreed that smoking is dan-
gerous to one’s health and should be avoided. As Rabbi Bleich
explained, “Rabbi’s should use their extensive powers of moral
persuasion to urge the eradication of this pernicious and damag-
ing habit!” [2].
Interestingly, a study done in 2005 by a group of Israeli re-
searchers suggested that Orthodox Jews have less of a craving for
smoking on Shabbat than on any other workday. The researchers
took a group of 20 Orthodox Jewish students, who are heavy
smokers during the week (about 20 cigaretters per day), but who
abstain completely from smoking on Shabbat, and analyzed their
level of craving for smoke on Shabbat and on a regular workday
when forced to abstain from smoking for the study purposes.
The researchers noted that craving levels on Shabbat, when ab-
stinence was habitual for the smokers, was very low in compari-
son to abstinence on a regular workday. These fndings suggested
that craving levels for the participants in the study were affected
by habits, cues, and expectations more than by smoking depriva-
tion. The researchers explained that the decline in craving may be
rabbi Moshe feinstein was correct in his
ruling on smoking based on the information
available to him in his day. however, it is
most likely that at present the conditions
which led to his lenient ruling no longer
apply.
derech haTeva 25
referenceS
[1] Ullman, Y. (2003). Exercise. Ohr Somayach. http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/1028 (retrieved September 26, 2010)
[2] Rosner, F. (1982). Cigarette smoking and Jewish law. J. Halacha Contemp. Soc. 4:33-45
[3] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/ef-
fects_cig_smoking/index.htm (retrieved September 26, 2010).
[4] eHealth Med http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/smoking/SMO_whatis.html (retreived September 26, 2010)
[5] Berman, S., Bulka, R., Landes, D., and Woolf, J. (2005). Rabbis condemn smoking. Jewish Med. Ethics 5:56-59.
[6] Rabbinical Council of America. The Probibition of Smoking in Halacha. http://www.rabbis.org/pdfs/Prohibition_Smoking.pdf (retrieved January 16,
2011)
[7] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publica-
tions/AAG/osh.htm (retrieved September 26, 2010).
[8] Weingarten, M. (2007). Prevention in halakhah. Isr. Med. Assoc. J. 9:180-182
[9] Dar, R., Stronguin, F., Marouani, R., Krupsky, M., Frenk, H. (2005). Craving to smoke in orthodox Jewish smokers who abstain on the Sabbath: a com-
parison to a baseline and a forced abstinence workday. Psychopharmacology 183:294-299.
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Dr. Babich for encouraging me to write this article and for his continual support and assistance throughout the
process. Additionally, I would like to thank Rabbi Asher Bush, chairman of the Vaad Halacha of the RCA, for his guidance in writing this article and for
reviewing the Torah content of this article. I would like to thank my friend Rivkah Rogawski, for her help in editing this article. Lastly, I would like to express
my sincere thanks and appreciation to my parents for their unending support and encouragement throughout my educational career.
a result of other factors, such as that Shabbat is a day of rest and
therefore not as stressful as a workday. Since smoking has been
associated with stress, the reduction of craving on Shabbat could
be as a result of the lowered stress level [9]. However, from the
fact that a halachic smoking ban results in reduced cravings, one
can infer that if smoking was always halachically prohibited, crav-
ings would perhaps always be reduced.
The strong scientifc evidence for the negative health effects
of smoking leads many of today’s contemporary rabbanim to adopt
the position that smoking is prohibited halachically, not only in the
public sphere, but on the individual basis as well [5]. Additionally,
regardless of whether or not it is halachically prohibited, there is
a strong consensus amongst the poskim that smoking should be
avoided as it is a dangerous and harmful habit [2]. Lastly, in light
of the study that suggests that the craving for smoking is con-
nected to expectations for it, if a unifed statement was released
from rabbinic authorities prohibiting smoking, then cravings may
be reduced overall. As the rabbanim of the Va’ad Halacha of the
RCA stated in their article, “the fact that all Orthodox Jews refrain
from smoking on Shabbat shows that for a faithful Jew, reverence
for halacha and obedience to it are far stronger than any addiction
to tobacco” [6]. Hopefully, the shift against smoking that has al-
ready begun in the Jewish community will continue towards com-
plete abstinence in the future.
g
26 derech haTeva
Shi ra gol dstei n
b A d b r e A T h i n T h e T A l M u d
t is common knowledge that the Talmud and halachic
commentaries discuss a wide variety of different topics that
cover almost all areas of study. We often underestimate,
however, the extent of the Rabbis’ knowledge in seemingly
secular areas, such as mathematics, philosophy, and science.
In reference to science, the Rabbis exhibited an extensive
understanding of the way the world, and specifcally our body,
works. This deep understanding often shaped the halachic
conclusions in the Talmud and helped form the commentators’
interpretations of various texts. By taking a deeper look into the
specifc physiology involved in various halachic and midrashic
discussions, one can glean a greater understanding of the
implications of the debated topics.
In Ketubot (72b, 77a), the Talmudists discussed halitosis, more
commonly known as bad breath. According to the Talmud, bad
breath is considered a serious disability, in regard to spouses and
priests. It was considered to be a ground for divorce and it dis-
qualifed a priest from carrying out his holy duties.
In a Jewish marriage, the husband gives his wife a ketuba, or
marriage contract, that dictates the fnancial obligations of the
husband to the wife in the case of divorce. If, however, after the
wedding, the husband fnds a major disability in his wife for which
he was unaware previously, he may annul the marriage and for-
feit the ketuba obligations. Bad breath is considered to be one of
these major disabilities that can allow the husband to cancel the
ketuba. In general, there are lesser grounds for a woman to uni-
laterally divorce her husband. Bad breath, however, is considered
such a major detriment in the husband (along with boils and en-
gaging in foul smelling professions, such as leather curing, copper
work, and collecting dog dung), that a woman is entitled to seek
divorce (Ketubot 77a). The sages discussed whether nasal malodor
should be given the same legal stature as oral malodor. Later, the
great Jewish scholar, Maimonides (Rambam 1138-1204; Spain),
decided that both types of malodor should be considered legally
equivalent (Hilchot Ishut 25:12) [1].
Nowadays, most cases of halitosis originate from the mouth
itself (about 90%), and only in more unlikely cases (about 5-10%)
from the nasal passages. In most cases the odor is caused by bac-
terial decay in the oral cavity. In its initial phase, glycoproteins
may be deglycosylated by Gram positive bacteria, exposing the
naked protein to proteolysis by enzymes secreted by Gram nega-
tive bacteria. The amino acids are then be further broken down,
yielding foul-smelling molecules, such as hydrogen sulfde (from
breakdown of cysteine), methyl mercaptan (from methionine),
cadaverine (from lysine), indole, and skatole (from tryptophan).
Current scientifc thought believes the tongue to be the major
source for bad breath. Postnasal drip, food debris, and sloughed
off epithelial cells collect on the posterior area of the tongue
dorsum, where they are subsequently decomposed by the large
microbial population. Serious cases of gingivitis and periodontal
disease may contribute to oral malodor. Dryness of the mouth,
which increases signifcantly during fasting or sleeping, also con-
tributes greatly to oral malodor. Contrary to popular belief, the
stomach does not contribute to bad breath, except in rare circum-
stances [1, 2].
Another area in halachah that involves the mouth’s physiol-
ogy is the law to wait a given period of time between eating meat
and milk. In the Talmud Chulin 105a, Mar Ukbah stated, “In this
matter of waiting between meat and cheese, I am vinegar the son
of wine, because if my father ate meat, he would not eat cheese
for 24 hours. I, however, do not eat them at the same meal, but
at the next meal, I will eat cheese.” Our Rabbis used Mar Ukbah’s
statement to determine the time one must wait between eating
meat and milk. Rabbeinu Tam (12th century, France) understood
Mar Ukbah’s statement to mean that one must only wait until the
next meal, whenever that happens to be. According to Rabbeinu
Tam, one who eats meat, must then recite the grace after meals,
wash his hands and mouth, and can then eat cheese. Other Rab-
bis, however, like Rav Yoseph Kairo (16th century, Spain) quanti-
i
bad breath is considered to be one of
these major disabilities that can allow the
husband to cancel the ketuba.
derech haTeva 27
fed Mar Ukbah’s statement with a requirement to wait six hours--
the time it takes for the taste of meat to completely leave one’s
mouth. Rashi (eleventh century, France) explained the “taste of
meat” as the coating of fat that remains in one’s mouth and throat
after eating meat. Rambam explained the “taste of meat” as the
particles of meat that remain between one’s teeth after eating [3].
The Rabbis’ concern of the remainder of the “taste of
meat” can be better understood when explored physiologically.
Digestion of all foods begins in the oral cavity. The frst step is
a physical digestive step, called mastication, or chewing food into
smaller pieces to increase the food’s surface area and to allow for
easier swallowing. Mastication is controlled by powerful muscles
called the massester and temporalis that move the mandible, or
lower jaw, against the upper, in a motion which can crush even
the toughest foods. Mastication causes exocrine glands under the
tongue and in the back of the mouth to secrete a watery sub-
stance called saliva. The saliva moistens the crushed foods and
allows the tongue to compact the food into a small, easily swal-
lowed ball, called a bolus. The saliva contains digestive enzymes,
like salivary amylase, that begins chemical digestion of foods in
the mouth. The salivary amylase is able to break down carbohy-
drates to simple sugars at a relatively fast rate, as the food’s surface
area is repeatedly increased by mastication. Almost no proteins
or fats are digested in the mouth, with the exception of a small
amount of fats broken down by lingual lipase, an enzyme secreted
by Ebner’s gland on the dorsal side of the tongue [4].
Rashi’s concern of a layer of fat remaining in the mouth after
eating meat is very likely, because little fat breakdown is accom-
plished in the mouth. Any fat residue in the mouth would remain
in its lipid form until is eventually broken down by lingual lipase
enzyme, well after one has fnished eating. Rambam’s concern in-
volves the process of mastication. Despite the sophistication of
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my parents for constantly motivating and inspiring me to strive higher in my pursuit of education, as well as my husband, Yochanan,
for providing me with endless support and encouragement. Thank you Dr. Babich for your help with researching this topic.
referenceS
[1] Orenbuch, S., Rosenber, M., and Shifman, A. (2002). Bad Breath- A Major disability According to the Talmud. Medicus Judaicus 4:843-845.
[2] Van den Velde, S., Van Steenberghe, D., Van Hee, P., Quirynen, M., “Detection of Odorous Compounds in Breath.” Journal of Dental Research 88.
(2009): n. pag. Web.
[3] Friedfertig, M. (2002). Teeth and Torah: Jewish Law and the Requirement to Wait Between Eating Meat and Milk. Alpha Omegan 95:22-23.
[4] Burns, W. and Hamosh. (1977). Lipolytic activity of human lingual glands. Lab. Invest. 37: 603-608
[5] Babich, H. (1998). Teaching science to the Torah-observant student. Derech Hateva, a Journal of Torah and Science. VOLUME 3 1 0-13.
[6] Rosner, F. (1978). Julius Preuss’ Biblical and Talmudic Medicine, Sanhedrin Press, NY, NY.
our oral digestive systems, the small string like pieces that result
when meat is chewed can often become stuck in one’s teeth for
many hours after a meal. Apparently during the waiting period the
pieces of meat are decomposed, perhaps by bacteria in the oral
cavity, to an extent where they are no longer considered meat ac-
cording to the halachah.
Practically, we take into consideration both Rashi and Ram-
bam’s reasons for waiting between meat and milk. It is important
to note, however, that the amount of time waited between meat
and milk differs among Jews based on differences in traditions.
Many other properties of the mouth are discussed throughout
the Talmud and Midrash. The lubricating characteristic of saliva is
mentioned in Shemot Rabbah (24:1), “If a man ate bread as it is, it
would go down into his digestive tract and scratch him, but Hash-
em created a well in the throat which conducts the bread safely
down.” Bamidbar Rabbah (18:22) hinted to the oral digestion of
carbohydrates, “the water of the mouth is sweet.” This referred
to the taste of the simple sugars that result from the breakdown
of carbohydrates by enzymes (salivary amylase) in the saliva se-
creted by exocrine glands in the mouth. The Talmud (Bava Batra
126b; Shabbat 108b) noted the therapeutic treatment of applying
spit to an eye infection. The medicinal properties of saliva may
be related to lysozyme, an agent that prevents cell wall synthesis
of bacteria, which leads to the osmotic lysis of bacterial cells.
Another approach attributed the remedial properties of saliva to
potassium sulfocyanide, present in highest concentrations in the
saliva of a fasting person [5, 6].
Allusions to the physiological workings of the mouth per-
meate the Talmud and commentaries. Gaining insight into the
intricacies of our physiological makeup helps us acquire a deeper
understanding of halacha and Torah in general and enhances our
appreciation of the miracle that our bodies are.
g
28 derech haTeva
nathal i e hi rsch
S h o u l d P r e c o n c e P T i o n g e n d e r S e l e c T i o n b e
A l l o W e d ?
odern science has enabled us to improve many things
in the world. It has allowed humans to detect faws
before they become actual problems and to cure
diseases very easily. Along with all great developments
come negative side effects as well. For example, plastic surgery
can either be used to save a burn victim or to erase wrinkles from
a face. In both cases the same procedure is done, but for very
different reasons. In recent years the line between what is necessary
for scientifc reasons and what is an elective choice has become
unclear. A controversial issue both in the secular and Jewish world
has been preconception gender selection. There are ethical and
halachic problems with the idea of favoring one gender of a baby
over another, as well as the means by which this is done.
There are three methods by which parents can choose the
gender of their offspring. The frst is to conceive naturally, then
have a prenatal diagnosis. Through a sonogram the sex of the
baby can be determined and aborted if it is the undesired sex.
There are many ethical and halachic problems with this, but this is
not the main focus of the heated debate.
The second manner of determining offspring gender is pre-
implantation diagnosis (PGD) followed by a selective implantation
based on sex. In this procedure, pre-embryos created through in
vitro fertilization (IVF) in the laboratory are identifed according
to gender. Then only the selected gender pre-embryos are im-
planted into the mother’s womb. The third method of selecting
offspring gender is the technique of pre-fertilization separation
of the sperm into X and Y spermatozoa. The desired sperma-
tozoa are injected through intra-uterine insemination (IUI). This
procedure is known as fow cytometry separation (FCS) [1].
Gender selection is a unique feld in that it has both medical
and non-medical benefts. Choosing offspring gender might be
necessary in a case in which one of the parents is a carrier of a
genetic disease linked to one of the sex chromosomes. In such a
case, gender selection may reduce the risk of producing a child
with this disease. Others want to select the gender of their child
because of convenience or for cultural or religious reasons [2].
When looking at the halachic problems with the methods by
which gender selection is carried out, the frst issue that comes to
mind is if this is a legitimate way to fulfll the mitzvah of p’ru ur’vu.
When discussed among the commentaries they compare it to a
case in the Gemara (Chagigah 15a), in which a woman is impreg-
nated in a bathhouse (nitara b’ambati). If a man had emitted sper-
matozoa into the water, causing the woman to get pregnant, what
would be his status regarding p’ru ur’vu? This is left as a question
and many commentaries have attempted to answer the question.
This is similar to PGD and IUI in that the impregnation was not
done by natural means. Do these methods actually count as fulfll-
ing the mitzvah? Some commentaries made a distinction between
PGD and IUI and nitara b’ambati because the father is actually
involved in these procedures by donating the sperm [2].
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Even HaEzer 2:18) posed
the question of whether the mitzvah of p’ru ur’vu is action-based
or whether it is result-based [2]. The Minchat Chinuch proved that
the mitzvah was result-based as proven by the law that if a person
bears children, but then the children die without bearing their own
children, the mitzvah was not fulflled. If the mitzva is result- based,
there is no question that the father still fulflled the mitzvah of p’ru
ur’vu even if gender selection of the child was done and the egg
was artifcially inseminated. But if it is action-based, which is Rav
Feinstein’s opinion, then there is a question of whether the father
fulflled the mitzvah [2]. Some opinions maintain that since he con-
tributed the sperm, he fulflled the mitzvah. Other commentaries
disagreed because since the action of conceiving a child was not
done naturally, there was no fulfllment of the mitzvah [2].
The second signifcant halachic problem regarding IUI and
IVF for gender selection is the issue of hashchatat zerah, the wast-
ing of “seed.” In both of these procedures, the sperm was to
be taken from the male, which would normally be a violation of
hashchatat zerah. Many commentaries maintained that such an act
is permissible for IUI since it is for the purpose of producing a
M
in recent years the line between what is
necessary for scientifc reasons and what is
an elective choice has become unclear.
derech haTeva 29
child. Others disagreed and claimed that it was wasting seed, since
sperm is emitted but was not completely used [2]. The majority
of the commentaries that allow IUI and believe that it is not a
violation of hashchatat zerah based their leniency on people who
have diffculty bearing children. Accordingly, it seems that gender
selection through this method would not be permissible accord-
ing to halacha since it is considered a violation of hashchatat zerah in
cases where people do not have problems with fertility. In regard
to PGD, there are commentaries that hold that the destruction
of a viable embryo is a violation of hashchatat zerah [2]. Other
commentaries disagreed, since the pre-embryos are frozen after
insemination for possible future pregnancies or if the frst im-
plantation fails, there is no additional violation of hashchatat zerah
[2].
Setting the halachic views aside, a major concern of these
methods and preselecting the gender of a baby is the ethics per-
spective. If parents are allowed and willing to choose the gender
of their child, is it possible that the balance of the world, and
even the Jewish community, would become skewed? The male to
female ratio would no longer be 1:1 and even if it were shifted
a little, it could cause major problems. There was a study done
in Germany where people were asked what gender they would
choose for their child and the result was practically a 1:1 ratio
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my parents for sending me to Stern. For encouraging me everyday and inspiring me to pursue a career in science. I would like to thank
Dr. Babich for helping me fnd information for this article as well as dedicating himself to better the Stern Biology Department.
referenceS
[1] Wolowelsky, J., Grazi, R., and Brander, K. (2007). Sex selection and halakhic ethics: A contemporary discussion. Tradition 40:45-78.
[2] Flug, J. (2004). A boy or a girl? The ethics of preconception gender selection. J. Halacha Contemp Soc.. 47:5-27.
[3] Robinson, N. (2010). Is it ethically acceptable, legally permissible and halachic to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select desirable charac-
teristic? magazine Jewish Med. Ethics 7:4-12.
[2]. But according to many sources, this is not a study that can be
trusted.
Another ethical issue, which is a concern of many people,
is that gender selection creates a slippery slope in the way of
creating a “perfect” child [3]. People would look at the genetic
makeup and attempt at fxing all the faws to create a model child.
People would select the genes for the most athletic, intelligent, or
beautiful child and then there would be no room for genetics to
play its assigned role. People would start playing G-d. This would
not only create more competition, but would create a huge gap
between the people privileged enough to have been “genetically
engineered” children and the people who are not. Genetically per-
fect people would have more of an advantage in the world than
everyone else and this would cause chaos [3]. Genetic selection
would also cause a lowering of genetic diversity, leading to dis-
eases being more effective and harmful, because without diversity
everyone will be affected in the exact same way [3].
In conclusion, it is clear that the ethics and the halacha of
preconception gender selection have to be considered for each
specifc case individually. There is no right or wrong answer, but
it is necessary to realize that allowing gender pre-selection could
lead society down a road of trying to take over the role of G-d,
something no one will ever be able to do.
g
30 derech haTeva
il ana ickow
A n e l e M e n T A l A n d d e n T A l v i e W o f J u d A i c
l i T e r A T u r e
entistry has been practiced for thousands of years.
The ancient Chinese developed toothbrushes from
boar bristles, and the Etruscans of ancient Italy carved
false teeth from ivory. Remains of primitive humans
have been discovered with indentations in their teeth, presumably
caused by toothpicks and an early form of dental foss [1].
In addition to such evidence and secular historical reports,
throughout the generations of the Tanach, Mishnah, and Talmud,
until the Rishonim and Acharonim, Judaic literature has discussed
dentistry and has given signifcant insight into its advancement
through the ages.
In Tanach, the word “shen,” “tooth,” is cited 42 times. The
frst dental mention in the Torah refers to personal appearance
and occurs in Bereishis (49:12), when Yaakov blessed Yehuda, “u’liven
shinayim m’chalav.” Yaakov wished nourishment and plenty upon
Yehuda by blessing him with teeth whiter than milk. The Torah
also mentions teeth in the context of the judicial system, while
referring to fnancial compensation in the words, “shen tachas shen,”
“a tooth for a tooth” (Shemos 21:24, Vayikra 24:20). The physi-
cal reaction of teeth to food is described in Yirmiyahu (31:29),
“kol ha’adam ha’ochel haboser tikhena shinav,” “any person who eats
sour grapes, his teeth are set on edge.” Most references to teeth
in Tanach, however, are metaphorical descriptions of force and
command. For instance, in describing the downfall of the en-
emy, Zecharia said, “v’hasirosi… v’shikutzav mibein shinav,” “I will re-
move… [abhorrence] from between his teeth” (Zecharia 9:7), and
in Eicha, the wrath of the enemy is described as “vayacharku shen,”
“they gnash [their] teeth” (Eicha 2:16) [2].
Later references, including the Mishnah, along with its com-
mentary in the Gemara and works of Rishonim and Acharonim, give
more literal clues about dentistry and its development through
time. The Mishnah proclaimed, “A gold tooth, Rabbi Meir permits
[wearing outside on the Sabbath] and the Sages forbid” (Shabbos 6)
[3]. Why did some Rabbis prohibit wearing a gold tooth outside
on Shabbos? Rashi (Shabbos 65a) cited the opinion of his teachers
who said that a person who wears a gold tooth in public may be-
come embarrassed because a gold tooth clearly does not resemble
the other teeth. Therefore the person might remove the tooth
d
while not within an eruv and violate the prohibition of carrying
[4]. The Avnei Nezer added an additional reason why gold teeth
would embarrass a person: he noted that false teeth were very rare
at that time and a person would not want to be seen with some-
thing so uncommon [5].
Rashi, however, disagreed with the reasoning of his teach-
ers and stated that the person will eventually carry the tooth on
Shabbos because he will be proud of the expensive prosthesis and
will remove it to show it to others. The Maharsha offered sup-
port for Rashi’s opinion: there is a beraisa which stated that R’
Yishmael bought his niece a gold tooth to enhance her appearance.
Clearly, gold teeth were valued as a cosmetic enhancement at that
time. The Ben Ish Chai reconciled the disagreement between Rashi
and his teachers by distinguishing between yellow gold and white
gold. He viewed yellow gold as conspicuous and embarrassing,
but stated that white gold was beautiful and a person was likely to
remove and display a white gold tooth [4].
The Mishnah continued to state that silver teeth were permit-
ted to be worn outside on Shabbos. According to Rashi’s teachers,
silver teeth were not as noticeable as gold teeth and were not em-
barrassing; according to Rashi, silver teeth were not as expensive
as gold teeth and were not worthy of display. From this halachic
debate, we learn that dental prosthetics during the times of the
Mishnah, Talmud and Rishonim were composed of several mate-
rials and even were removable. It is also interesting to note the
emotions linked to the various restorative materials at different
times: during the Talmudic era, gold teeth were valued, whereas
Rashi’s teachers viewed them as unsightly and embarrassing [4].
There is a beraisa which stated that r’
yishmael bought his niece a gold tooth
to enhance her appearance. clearly,
gold teeth were valued as a cosmetic
enhancement at that time.
derech haTeva 31
The Gemara is replete with references to methods used to
treat various dental ailments. In Kiddushin, it stated, “While drill-
ing (lachtor) the tooth, it falls out.” “Lachtor” means to drill, in-
dicating that dental drills were already being utilized in the time
of the Gemara [3]. It is interesting to note that while drilling was
discussed as early as the Gemara period, the use of modern drills
is a relatively recent development. Drills are commonly used in
dentistry to remove caries, or decay, from inside a tooth. Before
drills were invented, dentists resorted to toothpicks or scissors to
remove caries. In 1790, George Washington’s dentist invented
a drill that rotated through use of a pedal, and in 1838 a “hand-
cranked” drill was patented. Drills that operate with motors were
not used until the 1860’s. Today, mechanical drills rotate up to
400,000 rpm and are used to very accurately and smoothly shape
teeth for crowns and fllings, with minimal discomfort to the pa-
tient [6].
Rashi, however, did not translate “lachtor” as “to drill,” but
commented that “lachtor” suggested a method to ‘cleanse the
base of the tooth.’ Rashi described a scaling method, a procedure
analogous to one still used today to treat periodontal disease [7].
Periodontal disease involves infection of the periodontium, the
tissues around the teeth below the gumline, and can lead to bone
and tooth loss. It is generally caused by accumulation of bacteria-
laden debris beneath the gumline, which eventually forms calcu-
lus, or tartar, when exposed to the natural minerals of the mouth.
A scaling procedure utilizes vibrating hand instruments to clean
debris from below the gums. Scaling is usually performed with
a procedure called root planing, which smoothes the root of the
tooth to remove irregularities which could likely become the loca-
tion of future buildup of bacteria [8]. Even in the times of the
Gemara similar procedures were performed, as it said in Kidushin,
“Scraping is a means of cleaning the teeth” [9].
The Gemara provided even greater insight into ancient den-
tistry. It described the use of wood, in addition to gold and silver,
to replace teeth. In Shabbos 6:8c of the Talmud Yerushalmi, a story
of a woman revisiting a “nagra,” a carpenter, to replace her tooth,
was discussed [2]. Toothpicks were used to clean and align teeth
(Tosefta Shabbos 5:1). In Chullin (16b) it stated, ‘A reed should not
be used for this purpose because it may injure the gums’ [10]. In
D’mai, a story is told of Rabbi Shimon ben Cahana and Rabbi Ela-
zar walking together, when one asked the other, ‘Bring me a twig
from the hedge to pick my teeth’ [11]. Extractions were also per-
formed, but they were considered dangerous surgical procedures,
as Rav warned his son not to have his tooth pulled (Pesachim 113a)
[10].
The Rambam offered much information about dental ailments
and remedies. He described a gold tooth placed “on top of a
black or red one.” A nonvital tooth becomes blackened when the
dentin layer is discolored by degraded blood cells, and a tooth may
appear red when the outermost layer of enamel remains healthy
but the internal pulp decayed [3]. Rav Ovadiah MiBartenura, how-
ever, described teeth “with a changed appearance due to mold”
[7]. Today we know that tooth decay, or dental caries, is a disease
which affects vital teeth only. It is caused when bacteria, attracted
to sugars on the teeth, ferment the carbohydrates into organic
acids. The acids, formed on the outer surface of the tooth, or
enamel, travel via tubules to the inner layers of the tooth, dentin
and pulp. Using aniline dye, Dr. G.V. Black detected tubules with
greatly enlarged diameters, as a result of bacteria traveling to the
inner layers of the tooth [12].
In Regimen of Health, the Rambam listed several remedies for
a toothache, among them cinnamon bark, coriander, vinegar, and
raisins [10]. The oral health benefts of raisins have been scien-
tifcally proven just recently, centuries after the Rambam suggested
raisins as a cure for toothaches! Dr. C.D. Wu at the College of
Dentistry of the University of Illinois researched the possible
contribution of raisins to oral health. By utilizing antimicrobial
assay-guided fractionation and purifcation technique, compounds
in raisins such as oleanolic aldehyde, linolenic acid, betulinic acid,
and beta-sitosterol glucoside were found to prevent the growth
of oral pathogens. These antimicrobial phytochemicals inhibited
bacteria which cause caries and periodontitis. In addition, the
proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract were found to aid in the
reduction of root caries [13].
The importance of oral health to the general health of the
body has been known for centuries, as the Yalkut Shimoni described,
“The health of the body depends on the teeth” [9]. However, re-
cent scientifc studies are beginning to prove more conclusively
the link between oral health and general health. Drs. Kaneko,
Yoshihara, and Miyazaki found a positive correlation between the
number of sites of root caries and C-reactive protein serum levels.
Higher levels of this protein indicated an elevated risk of cardiac
dysrhythmia and cardiovascular disease [14]. In addition, a study
on Pima Indians with diabetes concluded that periodontal disease
caused an increase in the number of diabetic complications due
to increased blood sugar levels. When the periodontal disease was
controlled, the diabetic complications decreased markedly [15].
The advances in dentistry today would not have been possible
without building on the knowledge and achievements of previous
32 derech haTeva
generations. One particularly interesting modern development in
dentistry is the use of dental stem cells to regenerate lost tooth
and bone structure. Dental pulp stem cells, or DPSCs, are ca-
pable of renewal and differentiation, and studies have shown that
DPSCs can form dentin, pulp, bone tissue, and crown structures
[16].
In addition to DPSCs, other types of dental stems cells have
been researched. Drs. Park, Jeon, and Choung obtained DPSCs,
periodontal ligament stem cells (PDLSCs) and periapical follicu-
lar stem cells (PAFSCs) from molars of beagle dogs and allowed
these cells to regenerate. PDLSCs were found to be the most
effective in regenerating alveolar bone, cementum, nerves, blood
vessels, and periodontal ligaments [17]. Mesenchymal stromal
cells (MSCs) extracted from third molars were also utilized to
derive stem cells. Through retroviral transduction of three tran-
scription factors (OCT3/4, SOX2, KLF4), induced pluripotent
stem cells, which were similar to human embryonic stem cells,
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to my parents for your continuous support, for providing me with a superior education, and for being my role
models through your constant acts of chesed. Thank you to Dr. Babich for all your help and guidance in writing this article and producing this volume of
Derech HaTeva. Thank you for the many opportunities you have given me in Stern to learn, to give, and to grow. I will forever be inspired by your generos-
ity, dedication, and concern for your students. Thank you to Rabbi Laibel Schapiro for editing this article for its Torah content.
referenceS
[1] Bellis, M. History of Dentistry and Dental Care. <http://inventors.about.com/od/dstartinventions/a/dentistry.htm>. (retrieved January 6, 2011)
[2] Nakash, A., 2003, Biblical bites, Jewish Press, May 30th, p. 42.
[3] Stern, N. (1997). Esthetic and prosthetic dentistry as refected in the Old Testament and other ancient scriptures. J Esthet Dent. 9: 27-29.
[4] The Kalla’s Gold Tooth. Meoros Daf HaYomi. (24 Feb. 2008). 457:3.
[5] Kimelman, M., 2008, Caps on teeth, Hamodia, July 2.
[6] Dental Drill. Medical Discoveries. (2010). <http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/Com-En/Dental-Drill.html>. (retrieved January 6, 2011)
[7] Stern, N. (1996). Prosthodontics-from craft to science. J. Hist. Dent. 44:73-76.
[8] Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing. (2010). <http://dentsitry.com/treatments/gum-disease-treatment/periodontal-scaling-and root-planing>. (re-
trieved January 6, 2011)
[9] Davidson, M. (1983). Ancient references to dentistry and “biblical bites.” Bull. Hist. Dent. 31:30-31.
[10] Rosner, F. (1994). Dentistry in the Bible, Talmud and writings of Moses Maimonides. Bull. Hist. Dent. 42:109-112.
[11] Stern, N., Tal, M. (1976). References to dentistry in the Bible and Talmud. Isr. J. Dent. Med. 25:11-12.
[12] Ruby, J., Cox, C., Akimoto, N., Meada, N., Momoi, Y. (2010). The caries phenomenon: A timeline from witchcraft and superstition to opinions of the
1500s to today’s science. Intern. J. Dent. pii: 432767. Epub 2010 Jul 12.
[13] Wu, C.D. (2009). Grape products and oral health. J. Nutr. 139:1818S-1823S
[14] Kaneko, M., Yoshihara, A., Miyazaki, H. (2010). Relationship between root caries and cardiac dysrythmia. Gerodontology. 2010 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of
print]
[15] Connection between Gum Disease and Diabetes. <http://www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.diabetes.htm> (retrieved January 6, 2011)
[16] Yan, M., Yu, Y., Zhang, G., Tang, C., Yu, J. (2011). A journey from dental pulp stem cells to a bio-tooth. Stem Cell Rev. 7:161-71.
[17] Park, J., Jeon, S., Choung, P. (2010). Effcacy of periodontal stem cell transplantation in the treatment of advanced periodontitis. Cell Transplant. Aug
18. [Epub ahead of print]
[18] Oda, Y., Yoshimura, Y., Ohnish, H., Tadokoro, M., Katsube, Y., Sasao, M., Kubo, Y., Hattori, K., Saito, S., Horimoto, K., Yuba, S., Ohgushi, H. (2010).
Induction of pluripotent stem cells from human third molar mesenchymal stromal cells. J. Biol. Chem. 285:29270-29278
were formed from MSCs [18]. Exfoliated deciduous teeth, or
“baby teeth” may also prove to be a promising source of stem
cells (SHEDs) which can regenerate tissues. Dental pulp was re-
moved from deciduous teeth, and SHEDs were cultivated in cell
culture medium. Analysis of these cells revealed that SHEDs did
not degenerate in long-term experimentation [19]. Therefore,
banking of exfoliated deciduous teeth may become popular in
the future, as this method of storing a person’s own stem cells
would be an effective and painless way to eliminate risk of im-
mune rejection [20].
From the timeless verses of the Torah, through the palpable
conversations in the Gemara and analyses of the commentators,
we have traced references to dentistry throughout our history. By
learning how our ancestors related to this feld and how it has
changed, we can gain a new appreciation for the development of
modern dentistry and the contributions of our religious sources
to this science.
g
derech haTeva 33
[19] Suchanek, J., Visek, B., Soukup, T., El-Din Mohamed, S., Ivancakova, R., Mokry, J., Aboul-Ezz, E., Omran, A. (2010). Stem cells from human exfoliated
ideciduous teeth – Isolation, long term cultivation and phenotypical analysis. Acta Medica (Hradec Kralove).53:93-99.
[20] Arora, V., Arora, P., Munshi, A. (2009). Banking stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth (SHED): Saving for the future. J. Clin. Pediatr. Dent.
33:289-294
34 derech haTeva
el i sa Karp
c o l o r f u l c h e M i S T r y i n h A l A K h A : T h e M y S T e r y
o f T e K h e l e T
olor plays a prominent role in many aspects of Jewish
law (halakha). The details of ritual observance often
include a description of a distinguishing color, which
separates clean from unclean, as in the laws of negaim
and niddah, and mandate the required color of some ritual objects,
such as teflin. The chemistry of color change can be used as a
tool in the observance of halakha. For example, modern scholars
have been using color chemistry in their search for the lost tekhelet,
the blue dye of one of the four strings on each corner of tzitzit.
An early example of the use of color chemistry in aid of
halakhic observance was the preparation of ink for Torah scrolls.
Iron gall ink was in popular use from the 12
th
century to the 19
th

century for Torah scrolls and other manuscripts because it was
easy to make, it was permanent, and it adhered well to parch-
ment. The galls, abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues caused
by parasites, that were used to make the ink were obtained from
oak trees and were crushed to yield gallotannic acid. When mixed
with water, the ester links break and yield gallic acid. Gallic acid
was then mixed with water and iron (II) sulfate, resulting in iron
gall ink [1]. When it was frst applied to the parchment, the ink
was a light brown or sepia color, but as it dried it turned purplish-
black. Over time, as the ink began to corrode, it oxidized, turning
back to its brown-red color, and after a while the ink detached
from the parchment [2]. This last color change was caused by the
iron in the ink, which underwent an oxidation-reduction reaction
when exposed to oxygen to form iron oxide, also known as rust,
which imbued the ink with a reddish-brownish hue [3]. These
color changes were crucial from the halakhic perspective: since
the Torah scrolls must contain black ink, the sepia-colored ink
which was frst applied was invalid until it dried and turned black;
similarly, when the ink began to oxidize and turn brown again,
the scrolls were invalid [4].
Another important example of the use of color-related
chemistry in the observance of halakha is the ptil tekhelet, the blue
string on the tzizit. God commanded Moses, “Speak unto the
children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout
their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and
that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue”
(Numbers 15:38). Though there was once a detailed process to
creating the tekhelet dye, this integral part of the mitzva of tzitzit
was lost many centuries ago. The gemara in Menachot discussed
tekhelet, indicating that the method of dyeing the tekhelet was avail-
able until at least the ffth century, but the method was lost in the
middle of the Gaonic period, during the eighth century. Two spe-
cifc components of the tekhelet process were lost: the method of
dyeing of the tekhelet and the identity of the species that provided
the dye, the chilazon. The chilazon had not been available to the
Jews in Babylonia, where a large portion of the Jewish population
lived at that time, and it had to be imported from the Jews living
in Israel. When the settlement in Israel was lost, the tekhelet disap-
peared [5].
The rediscovery of tekhelet required going back to ancient To-
rah and secular sources, so that the scientifc discoveries regarding
tekhelet could be verifed by comparing newly unearthed possibili-
ties for tekhelet to the original. In ancient times, tekhelet (royal blue)
and argaman (Tyrian purple) were used in the garments of kings
and priests and other highly placed people because of the dyes’
rarity; therefore a Jewish man wore a thread of tekhelet to remind
him of his stature and responsibilities. The dyes for both tekhelet
and argaman were obtained from the glands of snails found in the
Mediterranean Sea. One of the major problems of reproducing
the dye is distinguishing between tekhelet and argaman [6]. An im-
portant aspect of identifying the source of the original tekhelet is
ensuring that the color of the dye produced is in fact the authen-
tic blue color and not purple or a different shade of blue.
The Talmud in Bava Metsia explained that because the tekhelet
in this state, when the dibromoindigo is
exposed to ultraviolet light, the bromine
bonds break and the dibromoindigo
transforms into indigo, changing the
purple-blue color to blue.
c
derech haTeva 35
dye was a scarce resource, a cheaper counterfeit dye, obtained
from a vegetable source, surfaced. The cheaper alternative, kela
ilan, is usually identifed as the color indigo, the color of the clear
sky. The Talmud stated that this dye was outwardly indistinguish-
able from the true tekhelet, but it was forbidden to be used in place
of tekhelet: the proper source of the tekhelet was the chilazon. The
Talmud provided us with several details regarding the chilazon’s
identity. It is found along the northern coast of Israel and its col-
or is similar to the color of the sea. It has a shell, but its form of
procreation is similar to that of a fsh. The Talmud additionally
noted that the dye must be taken from the chilazon while it is alive.
The characteristics of the chilazon described in the Talmud have
been used in modern efforts to fnd the source of tekhelet [6].
In the mid-nineteenth century, Rav Gershon Henokh Leiner
of Radzin (known as the Radziner Rebbe) took it upon himself
to fnd the long-lost chilazon. He had heard that a type of squid,
the cuttlefsh, Sepia offcinalis, ft the description of the chilazon, and
was convinced that this was the source of the dye. Rav Isaac Her-
zog, the frst Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, suggested that
the Radziner Rebbe consulted with chemists and determined how
to transform the black ink excreted from the squid into a blue
hue. Within a year, ten thousand of his followers were wearing the
blue strings on their tzitzit [7].
In 1913, Rav Herzog sent samples of the Radziner Rebbe’s
tekhelet to be examined by chemists and dye experts. The results,
rather than confrming that the Radziner Rebbe’s tekhelet as the
organic indigo, showed that it is an inorganic dye known as Prus-
sian blue, or ferric ferrocyanide. The process that the Radziner
Rebbe used to produce his dye was to heat the squid ink to very
high temperatures and then to add iron flings. Under these con-
ditions, the organic molecules break down and the carbon and
nitrogen recombine with the iron, which yields the Prussian blue
dye. The test results proved that the Sepia offcinalis was not the chi-
lazon, because any organic substance could have been substituted
for the squid ink [7]. For example, the original Prussian blue was
manufactured using ox blood [5]. The structure of the squid’s
molecules do not factor into the process, which is dependent
only on the elemental components – iron, carbon, and nitrogen.
Therefore, Rav Herzog determined that the Sepia offcinalis could
not possibly be the chilazon [7].
A few additional discrepancies questioned the identifcation
of the source of tekhelet as the Sepia offcinalis. First, cuttlefsh are
very common and were a common source of ink in ancient times,
which is inconsistent with the Talmud’s description of tekhelet as
very expensive. Second, the Talmud says that the chilazon can
be found buried in the sand, but the cuttlefsh cannot exist in
sand. Third, according to the Talmud, the chilazon has a hard shell
that must be cracked, and the cuttlefsh does not have an external
shell. Last, tekhelet is supposed to be a permanent dye, but Prus-
sian blue washes out with soap. For these reasons and because of
the vague and indirect relationship between the Radziner Rebbe’s
source of tekhelet and his fnal product, Rav Herzog concluded
that the chilazon was not the Sepia offcinalis [5].
After disproving the Radziner Rebbe’s tekhelet, Rav Herzog
attempted to fnd a different possible source of tekhelet. Rav
Herzog looked into the Murex trunculus in particular, and showed
conclusively that these snails were used in ancient times as a blue
dye. He noted that it is very diffcult to argue that the Jews used
a different source of blue dye than the rest of the ancient world
and that this source was unknown to ancient scholars and left no
archaeological evidence. He could not conclusively prove that the
Murex trunculus was the chilazon due to a few inconsistencies, which
were later resolved by modern experts. The biggest problem was
that the dye obtained from the snail was a blue-violet color and
not the sky-blue color with which the tekhelet is generally associ-
ated [7].
In the early 1980s, Otto Elsner of the Shenkar College of
Fibers discovered the solution to Rav Herzog’s problem. He no-
ticed that wool that was dyed from the Murex trunculus on cloudy
days tended toward purple, while wool that was dyed on sunny
days was pure blue. After investigating the photochemical prop-
erties of the Murex trunculus dye, he found that the dye was in
a reduced state, and it was the exposure to ultraviolet light that
would transform the blue-purple color to blue [7].
Precursors to the dye exist as a clear liquid in the hypobran-
chial gland of the Murex trunculus. The indigo molecule contains
indole, a toxic waste product, so the Murex trunculus neutralizes
the indole with sulfur, bromine, and potassium, and these resul-
tant molecules are the precursors to the dye. When the precur-
sors are exposed to sunlight and air, in the presence of the en-
zyme purpurase, which also exists in the gland, they turn into the
dye material. The dye must be taken from the chilazon while it is
still alive, because the purpurase quickly decomposes, so the gland
must be smashed soon after it is taken from the live snail. The re-
actions that occur when the precursors are exposed to sunlight in
the presence of the enzyme result in a mixture of dibromoindigo
(purple) and indigo (tekhelet). The dye is reduced and put into
solution so that it binds tightly to wool. In this state, when the
dibromoindigo is exposed to ultraviolet light, the bromine bonds
break and the dibromoindigo transforms into indigo, changing
36 derech haTeva
the purple-blue color to blue [7].
Elsner’s results were consistent with a study by Wouters and
Verhecken using high performance liquid chromatography, which
determined that the dye from the Murex trunculus contained indig-
otin, 6-monobromoindigotin, and 6,6’-dibromoindigotin. They
discovered that the tekhelet, indigotin, gets its color from a strong
absorption peak centered at 613 nanometers. This is a signifcant
discovery, because many scholars had struggled with matching the
colors of dyes, but an absorption peak is like a fngerprint for the
molecule in that it is a unique way of identifying the molecule
by color. For example, an absorption peak would be one way of
distinguishing between Prussian blue and tekhelet [8].
Although it cannot be determined with absolute certainty
that the Murex trunculus is the source of tekhelet, this identifca-
tion has much merit. Murex trunculus fts the criteria set forth by
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to express my sincere gratitude towards Dr. Babich for providing the sources for this article. Additionally, I would like to thank my parents for
supporting my education and for their constant encouragement.
referenceS
[1] Fruen, L. Iron Gall Ink. http://www.realscience.breckschool.org/upper/fruen/fles/Enrichmentarticles/fles/IronGallInk/IronGallInk.html (retrieved
January 4, 2011)
[2] Iron Gall Ink. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/stagser/s1259/103/website/ink.html (retrieved January 4, 2011)
[3] Nir-El, Y., and Broshi, M. The Black Ink of the Qumran Scrolls. Dead Sea Discoveries, Vol. 3,
No. 2, July 1996, 157-167. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4201558 (retrieved January 4, 2011)
[4] Basic Laws Regarding Torah Scrolls. http://www.keddem.org/PublicDocs/YKWorkshops_5770/Basic%20Laws%20Regarding%20Torah%20Scrolls.
pdf (retrieved January 4, 2011)
[5] Twerski, C. (1997). Identifying the chilazon. J. Halacha Contemp. Soc. 34:77-102.
[6] Sterman, B. (1999). The meaning of tekhelet. B’Or Ha’Torah. 11:185-195.
[7] Sterman B. (1996). The science of tekhelet. In Tekhelet: The Renaissance of a Mitzvah, Cohen, A.
(Ed.). The Michael Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press, New York. pp. 63-78.
[8] Wouters, J. and Verhecken, A. (1991). High-performance liquid chromatography of blue and purple indigoid natural dyes. J. Soc. Dyers Colour. 107: 266-
269.
the ancient sources. The shells have coatings that have a blue or
green coloring which fts the description of “similar to the sea.”
The snail is also extremely rare, making the dye very expensive, as
the tekhelet is said to be in the ancient sources. In the late 19
th
and
early 20
th
century, archaeologists found a large number of broken
Murex shells, consistent with the method needed to extract the
dye. In addition, if one opens a Murex trunculus snail and squeezes
the hypobrachial gland, one will obtain clear mucus which will
eventually change in color to purple. When the purple mucus is
exposed to direct sunlight during the dyeing process, the dye is
changed from purple to blue [5]. Although many poskim agree
with the identifcation of Murex trunculus as the chilazon, this iden-
tifcation is likely to remain a controversy for a long time, because
it cannot be made with absolute certainty, and it will likely take
years of debating before a consensus is reached.
g
derech haTeva 37
el i ana Kohanchi
T h e J e W i S h S T A n c e o n o r g A n
T r A n S P l A n T A T i o n S
ver the past few decades, modern medicine has
dramatically improved the lives of many individuals.
Among these developments, organ transplanting has
proven to be one of the most infuential and positive
advancements. Although these transplants serve to lengthen the
lives of many ill patients, whether or not these procedures are
permissible according to Judaic law (halacha) is unclear. There
are many references to organ transplantations throughout the
Torah, Talmud, and halachic literature that help guide the Rabbis
of modern times to permit or prohibit these procedures.
The frst surgical procedure as recorded in the Torah, oc-
curred when G-d split Adam into two parts, a male and a female,
indicating some form of a siamese section. This procedure was
unique in that Adam served as both the donor and the recipi-
ent. A piece of Adam was taken away and given to him again, in
the form of a partner. Prior to the surgery, the Torah reported
that G-d searched for a life partner for Adam, but failed to fnd
one. The fact that G-d only performed the operation when there
was no other alternative suggests that transplantations can only be
performed if completely necessary and nothing else can be done
to save an individual’s life [1]. Once the doctors have reached the
conclusion that no other alternative exists, an organ transplant is
a considerable option to save a life.
Additionally, halacha makes a distinction between cadaver
transplants, organs transplanted from a dead body into a living
person, and live donor transplants. There are three major halachic
problems regarding cadaver transplants. The frst is an issue of ni-
vul hamet, mutilation of the dead. The Torah clearly stated,“And if
a man has committed a capital crime and was executed, you shall
hang him upon a tree but do not allow his body to remain on the
tree all night” (Deuteronomy 21: 22-23). The Talmud taught that
any type of desecration of a dead body is included in this prohibi-
tion (Sanhedrin 47a). Furthermore, the Talmud discussed a case of
examining a dead body to check the internal organs for wounds,
concluding that this procedure was considered a desecration of
the body, and is prohibited (Hullin 11b). Accordingly, removing
an organ from a dead body would be a mutilation, and thus, it is
not halachicly permissible. The second problem with a cadaver
donor is found in the Talmud, where it explicitly stated that there
is a prohibition against deriving any beneft from a dead body,
known as issur hana’ah (Sanhedrin 47b). Lastly, the Torah wrote,
“Thou shall surely bury him” (Deuteronomy 22:23), from which
the positive commandment to bury the dead is derived. The Tal-
mud added a negative commandment associated with the burial
that prohibited the removal of any organ or limb from the body
(Sanhedrin 46b). Thus, cadaver transplants would seem to violate
this commandment, as they require the removal of an organ from
the dead body, disabling it from being fully buried [2].
When receiving organs from a dead body, many Rabbis de-
bate upon how to defne death. According to Rabbi Dr. Ble-
ich, brain death and irreversible coma do not defne one as dead.
Rather, according to halacha, death is defned as the total cessation
of both the cardiac and respiratory systems, which needs to occur
long enough for revival to be impossible. Rabbi Dr. Moshe Ten-
dler maintained that irreversible brain death is considered death
even if one’s heart is still functioning. The halachik defnition of
brain death remains a debate. However, an organ removed from
a brain dead patient who is not considered to be halachikly dead
is hastening his death. The donor cannot be prepared for this
procedure because it will shorten his life, which is considered to
be an act of murder [3]. For an individual who is considered to
be dead according to halacha, the general consensus among the
Rabbis is that saving a life, pikuach nefesh, overrides desecrating a
dead body, deriving beneft from a corpse, and burying a full body
with all organs intact. However, mutilation of the body should
be kept to a minimum and all remaining parts that are not used
for the transplant should be treated with respect and buried with
the corpse. If the person is not considered to be dead, the Torah
prohibited rushing of one’s death to save another life. [1].
Organ donations can be received from live patients as well.
o
This procedure was unique in that Adam
served as both the donor and the recipient.
38 derech haTeva
However, one who undergoes a surgical procedure to remove
an organ places himself into a safek sakkanah, a potential danger
to his life [4]. Kidney and liver transplants are commonly more
successful when received from living donors. Kidney transplants
have become a common procedure for those with kidney dys-
function. The kidneys regulate the body’s electrolyte and water
balance and eliminate waste products from the body. When both
kidneys fail, the patient can undergo a dialysis procedure or a kid-
ney transplant. Over the past few years, transplants have proven
to be a more successful procedure than the dialysis option [6].
Moreover, a donation from a live donor has been proven to be
more successful than that from a cadaver [1]. Rabbi Immanuel
Jakobovits stated that a donor may remove a kidney from his own
body, endangering his own life, to supply a “spare” organ to a
recipient whose life would be saved. However, he may donate
his kidney only if the probability of saving the recipient’s life is
greater than the risk posed to the life of the donor [5]. Since the
risk to the donor with two healthy kidneys is minimal, it seems
that kidney donations are permitted. However, there is no ob-
ligation for one to put himself at this risk nor should one be
pressured into placing himself in this position [1]. Rabbi Eliezer
Waldenberg and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach have agreed
that kidney transplants are permitted from both cadavers and liv-
ing donors because the donor still has one viable kidney [7].
G-d gave man two kidneys, but only one liver. The liver is
a large organ, but one can function without its entirety. When
the liver fails, whether due to infection or autoimmune disease,
a transplant is needed to allow the patient to live. Unlike kidney
transplants, dialysis is not an option for liver failure. Cadaver liver
donations are not as successful as donations from living donors.
When part of the donor’s liver is removed, it only takes a few
months for the liver to grow back to its original size and function
normally. However, this surgery is complex, causing a signifcant
rate of death for both the recipient and the donor. In fact, almost
all liver donors and recipients contract some form of illness from
the transplant procedure [7]. In this case, is the donor permitted
to risk his life for the sake of pikuach nefesh?
The Torah stated, “only beware for yourself and greatly be-
ware for your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:9) and “you should take
great care for your souls” (Deuteronomy 4:15). The Talmud and
the Rambam explained that these verses refer to the necessity of
removing all danger from one’s physical wellbeing. Furthermore,
one may not wound himself or set aside his life for that of an-
other. The Talmud Yerushalmi concluded that one is obligated to
place himself into a potentially dangerous situation in order to
save the life of another. It is certain that the recipient of the
organ will die without the transplant but it is only a possibility that
the donor will die due to the procedure [5]. On the contrary, the
Chafetz Chaim, author of the Mishna Brurah, explained that one is
not obligated to save another’s life if he poses a potential risk to
himself (Orach Chayyim, 329). The Chafetz Chaim elaborated that
the minor risk to the donor takes precedence over the absolute
risk to the recipient. However, the Mishna Brurah also noted that
one should not count his odds too carefully. For example, one
should not avoid visiting a sick patient in the hospital, because
a car might hit him while he is crossing the street. If the risk is
reasonable, one is permitted, but not obligated to take it. The
Aruch Hashulchan emphasized that saving one life is like saving the
entire world [7].
In the Gemara, an argument is recorded regarding how much
of the liver must remain in an animal for it to be considered ko-
sher. According to one opinion, only the most minimal amount
must remain, indicating that the liver is not a major life-sustaining
organ. Conversely, the other opinion, which is accepted as the
halacha, maintained that the liver is a life-sustaining organ, and
therefore, requiresd a minimum of the size of an olive in vol-
ume for the animal to retain its kosher status (Chulin, 46a). Rashi
explained, based on this Tosefta in Chulin, that this olive size is
the amount of liver necessary for the liver to produce healing
and perform its life-sustaining function. Dr. J.L. Kazenelson ex-
plained that the word “produce” indicated that the liver will actu-
ally regenerate new liver material, until the entire liver was healed.
Modern science did not record this until 1894, when two German
scientists discovered that the liver could regenerate even after the
removal of 7/8 of the organ. Secular scholars in ancient times,
such as Aristotle and Galen, only understood that the liver was
delicate and vulnerable to any minute injury. However, the Tan-
naim taught and applied the regenerative potential of the liver, a
discovery that was not found by the western world until ffteen
hundred years later [8]. g

he may donate his kidney only if the
probability of saving the recipient’s life is
greater than the risk posed to the life of
the donor
derech haTeva 39
referenceS
[1] Bulka, R.P. (1990). Jewish perspective on organ transplantation. Transplant. Proc.. 22: 945-946.
[2] Fink, R. (1983). Halachik aspects of organ transplantation. J. Halacha Contemp. Soc. 5: 46-58.
[3] Mayer, S.L. (1997). Thoughts on the Jewish perspective regarding organ -transplantation. J. Transplant. Coordin.. 7: 67-71.
[4] Breitowitz, Y.A. (2003). What does Halacha say about organ donation? Jewish Action. 64: 11-16.
[5] Rosner, F. (1975) Organ transplants: The Jewish viewpoint. Journal of Thanatology. 3: 233-241.
[6] Halperin, M. (1991). Organ transplants from living donors. Jewish Med. Ethics. 2: 29-32.
[7] Glatt, A.E. (2006). Liver transplantation from a living donor. B’or Ha’Torah. 16: 83-93.
[8] Lach, Y.D. (2003). Chullin Illuminated. Hamesivta Publ., Brooklyn, NY. 160.
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my parents for all of their emotional support. I would also like to thank Rabbi Shmalo for reviewing the Torah content of this article
and Dr. Babich for all his help in fnding the information necessary to write this article and for editing its scientifc content. Additionally, I would like to
thank Emma Teger for her grammatical editing.
40 derech haTeva
n intriguing instance in which a combination of Torah
and medical sources can help shape a theoretical
diagnosis is the case of Yitzchak’s eyesight. In Bereishis
(27:1), the Torah stated, “when Yitzchak had become
old and his eyes dimmed from seeing…” This phrase is mentioned
as an introduction to the episode where Yitzchak attempted to
bestow blessings on Esav, but ended up conferring them upon
Yaakov, whom he thought was Esav due to the “dimness” of his
eyes.
It is very possible that the diminishment of Yitzchak’s eye-
sight occurred through means of nature and intensifed by air
pollutants and his study habits. Suggested diagnoses include cata-
racts [1], glaucoma [1, 3], presbyopia [1], macular degeneration [1,
3], visual agnosia [1], adult-onset diabetic retinopathy [2], open-
angled glaucoma [3], trachoma [3], leprosy [3], onchocerciasis
[3], and xerophthalmia due to hypovitaminosis A [3]. Chazal did
not give any indication as to the specifc medical prognosis of
Yitzchak’s diminished eyesight.
There are some sources that support the argument that
Yitzchak’s blindness occurred by natural means related to his ad-
vanced age (though there are no sources that indicate that his
loss of vision stemmed solely due to the fact that he had aged). It
should be noted that when reference is made to something “natu-
ral” the intent is that the event occurred solely by Divine interven-
tion through pathways within the natural world, as opposed to a
rare condition or a sudden inexplicable onset.
One convincing argument as to the natural cause of Yitzchak’s
dim vision being attributed to aging comes directly from the To-
rah. The pasuk stated, “when Yitzchak had become old and his
eyes dimmed from seeing…” indicating that the reason his eyes
“dimmed” was due to his aging. The next pasuk (27:2) stated that
Yitzchak said to Esav, “see now that I have aged,” as if to ‘sand-
wich’ in the statement of his dim eyesight with an emphasis on his
elderliness, indicating that his eye condition was age-related.
Additionally, in reference to Eli’s dimming of the eyes, where
the identical term of “dimming,” keha, is used, the Rashbam
explicitly stated that it was “min haziknah,” “from the old age”
(Shmuel I 3:2).
batsheva Kuhr
i n S i g h T i n T o y i T z c h A K ’ S e y e S i g h T
This language of “keha” was also used in regard to Moshe,
except in this case the statement was the opposite. Moshe’s eyes
“did not dim” at the age of 120 (Devarim 34:7). One suggested
interpretation (that is not discussed by Chazal) is that eye dimming
was a rare condition and Moshe was part of the majority elderly
population whose eyes did not dim [1].
However, an overwhelming amount of evidence supports
the contrary claim that the statement of Moshe retaining his vi-
sual capacity emphasized that Moshe was exceptional in that his
visual acuity did not diminish. The Ramban similarly argued that
Yitzchak’s dimness of the eyes was a natural manifestation of
elderliness, just as Yaakov’s blindness was (48:10). Dr. F. Rosner
concurred, stating that it was the exception that Moshe was 120
years old, yet his eyes did not dim [4, 8].
A major cause for the intensifcation of Yitzchak’s dim eye-
sight, if not the primary cause of the condition, is from the smoke
from the sacrifces and incense offered to idols by Esav’s wives, as
Rashi informed above. As Mishlei pointed out, smoke is harmful
to the eyes (10:26). Though this is not a shocking revelation, it is
interesting to note that various combustion by-products, such as
sulfur dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter from the burning
of sacrifces and incense irritate eyes and worsen preexisting vi-
sual problems [5]. Specifcally, cigarette smoking has been linked
to age-related macular degeneration [6]. If one were to consider
the possibility that Yitzchak was exposed to similar smoke in his
own household, this would only substantiate the evidence that
Yitzchak had age-related macular degeneration.
Another factor that may have affected Yitzchak’s eyesight
was the amount of time he spent learning. The Gemara and espe-
if one were to consider the possibility that
yitzchak was exposed to similar smoke
in his own household, this would only
substantiate the evidence that yitzchak had
age-related macular degeneration.
A
derech haTeva 41
cially the Maharsha on Yoma 28b stated that Yitzchak and Yaakov
became blind in old age due to their excessive time in study of
Torah, their eyesight weakened and eventually was lost. Interest-
ingly, modern studies have found similar discoveries. In one such
study, the frequency and degree of myopia (nearsightedness) in
Yeshiva-attending Jewish males was signifcantly greater than their
secular-school-attending Jewish counterparts [7]. The conclusion
of the increased myopia was attributed to the study habits of
the individuals, especially related to the format of the text used.
Though this was not the case for these Patriarchs (Yitzchak and
Yaakov did not have gemaras with small print), the conclusion is
still the same: eyesight may be weakened due to extended study.
However, diminished eyesight was not to Yitzchak’s det-
riment; according to the Tanchuma (based on Rashi in Bereishis,
cited in the Artscroll Stone Edition of the Chumash), Yitzchak’s
loss of the full extent of his visual capacity alleviated him of any
emotional or spiritual pain stemming from seeing his offspring
worshipping idols. So in an alternate interpretation, as a reward
for his Torah studying, G-d spared him the pain of witnessing his
household members serve idols by dimming his eyesight.
Additionally, the Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 65 relates that
Yitzchak asked G-d to let him suffer in this world so that his
sins will be atoned for before reaching the World to Come. G-d
agreed to his request and Yitzchak became blind. In this Midrash,
Yitzchak’s old age was not a cause of his diminished eyesight.
Rather, Yitzchak’s advancement in years was the catalyst to re-
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my parents and brothers for their encouragement and endless faith in me. I wish to also express my gratitude to every single one of my
teachers for their continuous support in all of my endeavors. A special thank you goes to Dr. Babich who encouraged me and was an invaluable resource to
the start, middle, and end of this article. Thank you to Rabbi Reuven Lauffer of Jerusalem who took the time out to comprehensively review the manuscript
and add in many important enhancements. Most importantly, I would like to thank G-d for His infnite kindness I am privy to at every moment. Baruch
she’hechiyanu.
referenceS
[1] Weinberger, Y. (2001) Yitzchak: A man of vision. Derech Hateva, a Journal of Torah and Science. 5:30-32.
[2] Mansour, A.(2004) The eye in the Old Testament and Bible. Survey of Ophthalmology, Vol. 49:4, pp. 446-453.
[3] Ben-Noun, L. (2002) What diseases of the eye affected Biblical men? Gerontology.48:52-55
[4] Preuss, J. (1993) Biblical and Talmudic Medicine. Jason, Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey. Translated and edited by Fred Rosner.
[5] United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Effects of air pollutants- health effects” http://www.epa.gov/apti/course422/ap7a.html (Retreived
January 24, 2011)
[6] The Eye Digest. http://www.agingeye.net/maculardegen/maculardegeninformation.php (Retreived January 26, 2011) Published by University of Illinois
eye and Ear Infrmary.
[7] Zylbermann, R. (1993) The infuence of study habits on myopia in Jewish teenagers. J. Pediat. Ophthalmol. Strabismus. 30:319-322.
[8] Rosner, F. (2000) Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Bible and the Talmud. Jason, Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey.
quest atonement from Hashem. The reason why Hashem specif-
cally made him lose his visual capacity as the source for his atone-
ment is because Hashem was “setting the scene” for Yitzchak
being incapable of identifying onto whom he was bestowing the
blessings. The same Midrash mentions that Yitzchak’s lost eye-
sight was a fulfllment of the pasuk that a person who takes a
bribe is blinded (Shemos 23:8). Meaning, explains the Midrash, that
Yitzchak was punished with blindness for having allowed himself
to be “bribed” by Esav with the gifts of food that he brought.
An interesting point to mention is that Yitzchak asked Esav
to bring him some sort of meat, as he said, “go out to the feld
and hunt for me…[t]hen make me delicacies” (Bereishis 27:3,4). In
Pesachim 42a, it is written that, among other things, fat meat gives
light to the eyes [8]. It is conceivable that Yitzchak, whose eyes
were dim, desired to brighten them prior to bestowing the bless-
ings on his son by consuming meat, and specifcally “delicacies,”
which likely may have been fatty meat since fattening foods in that
era were considered delicacies.
In conclusion, any and possibly all of the factors and options
mentioned in this article could have been causes for the “natural”
decline of Yitzchak’s vision. One can see how science can be ap-
plied to details and facts that are presented in the Torah. With
even a modest amount of knowledge about what the commenta-
tors say on the issue and scientifc research, one can suggest pos-
sibilities regarding the nature of a condition, thus harmonizing
the world of Torah and science.
g
42 derech haTeva
Kati e e. li ebl i ng
l A v A n ’ S r e A l P e r S o n A l i T y
he infamous Lavan, brother of Rivka Imenu, is known
to all as an evil individual through both the Biblical
narrative as well as the commentaries. What is not
discussed, however, is how we may categorize Lavan’s
behavior in light of the current classifcation of personality
disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric
Association, provided standardized criteria for the classifcation of
psychological disorders. The category of personality disorders was
divided into three clusters: A—odd or eccentric, BB —dramatic,
emotional, or erratic, and C—anxious or fearful. Within cluster B,
lies Antisocial Personality Disorder, one that is characterized by a
pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of
others [1]. It seems plausible that Lavan can be classifed as having
had Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Dr. Robert Hare, a criminal psychologist, described individu-
als with antisocial personality disorder as “social predators who
charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life,
leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and
empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and empathy,
they selfshly take what they want and do as they please, violat-
ing social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of
guilt or regret.” Included in this constellation is pathological ly-
ing, superfcial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, need for
stimulation, and lack of remorse. Antisocial Personality Disorder
was formerly referred to as sociopathy or psychopathy. The latest
DSM (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for antisocial personality disorder fo-
cused more on observable behaviors, rather than on psychopathic
personality traits [1].
At the onset, Lavan is revealed to have been a greedy person
in parshat Chayei Sarah. When Eliezer came to Lavan’s family
to ask the father, Betuel, if he can take Rivka, Lavan’s sister, as a
bride for Yitzchak, Lavan ran out to greet him. Rashi explained
that Lavan impulsively ran only because he saw Rivka with a nose
ring and bracelets and realized that Eliezer was a wealthy man
(Breishit 24:29).

In parshat Vayeitzei, Rashi explained that Lavan re-
membered Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, coming with riches
to see Rivka and surmised that Yaakov, Avraham’s grandson,
must have come with even more. When he hugged Yaakov to
welcome him, Lavan’s true intention was to determine how flled
Yaakov’s pockets were with money (Breishit 29:13). Upon fnding
the pockets empty, Lavan kissed Yaakov to see if he had pearls in
his mouth. Much to his dismay, Lavan found nothing and subse-
quently invited him into his house for no reason other than “you
are my bone and my fesh” (Breishit 29:14). The Midrash in Breishit
Rabbah (70:19) explained that Lavan’s invitation to Yaakov was
meant for only a month, and during this time, he required Yaakov
to tend to his focks at half the going wage [3].

Realizing that Lavan was a cheater, Yaakov was very specifc
in his request for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Breishit 29:18): “For
Rachel, your daughter, the younger one.” Rashi explained that
Yaakov expressed his request in such detail so that Lavan would
not give him a random Rachel from the marketplace or change
Leah’s name to Rachel. Yaakov went so far as to create special
signs with Rachel with which he could identify her. Despite all of
this, Lavan still deceived Yaakov and, instead, clandestinely gave
him Leah, to whom Rachel had given the identifers in order to
prevent her sister’s embarrassment (Rashi in Breishit 29:25). La-
van gave Zilpah to Leah as a maidservant for a wedding present
to further mislead Yaakov. Rashi (Breishit 30:10) pointed out that
Zilpah was the younger of the two maidservants, corresponding
to the younger daughter, Rachel. The Avnei Shoham mentioned
that Lavan even cheated Zilpah by not indicating to whom she
was being given [2].
Lavan also behaved deviously with the people of Charan. It
was acknowledged by all that their waters were blessed because
of the righteous Yaakov’s presence, since prior to his arrival, wa-
T
it seems as if lavan regretted his previous
intent to harm his family. his subsequent
behavior, however, indicated that this
remorse was not lasting and, perhaps,
never even real.
derech haTeva 43
ter was sparse. In manipulating the townspeople to participate in
Yaakov’s deception, Lavan convinced them that switching Leah
for Rachel would cause Yaakov to remain in their land another
seven years while working for Rachel. As a result, the townspeople
would continue to be blessed with water. Lavan forced the people
to give him securities that he used to buy wine, oil, and food. He
was, therefore, known as Lavan HaArami, (ramai), meaning “La-
van the deceiver” (Breishit Rabah 70:19) [3]. Moreover, Oznayim
LaTorah explained that Lavan justifed the switch of his daughters
with the town’s custom of not giving the younger to be wed be-
fore the older [2].
The Abarbanel commented that Lavan publicized Yaakov’s
wedding to encourage the townspeople’s participation in the cel-
ebration and, thereby, to cause Yaakov to be ashamed to divorce
Leah once she was revealed to him. Lavan did not make a feast for
Rachel’s marriage to Yaakov, explains the Torah Temimah, because
there was no longer a need to confuse him [2]. Perhaps an addi-
tional motive of Lavan in making the feast for Leah was to charm
the masses and ingratiate himself in their eyes.
The Chofetz Chaim explained that Lavan attempted to justify
his machinations by claiming that he had to give Leah to Yaakov
frst in order to keep his promise. Because of the custom of the
land, Lavan could only give Rachel to Yaakov by marrying off
Leah frst. Lavan said that by asking for the younger sister frst,
Yaakov, in fact, implied the older as well. Moreover, Lavan be-
haved as if he were doing Yaakov a favor by giving him Rachel
right away and allowing him to work for her on credit [2].
Lavan continued to swindle Yaakov throughout his tenure.
When Yaakov worked additional years for Lavan to make a live-
lihood, he agreed to take the speckled, dappled, and brownish
lambs, sheep, and goats. Yet, Rashi (Breishit 31:7) noted that Lavan
changed his mind and the terms of the agreement 100 times!
Lavan’s own daughters were not immune to their father’s
criminality. When Hashem told Yaakov that it was time to return
to his birthplace, Leah and Rachel readily accepted. They re-
sponded by saying (Breishit 31:15), “Are we not considered to him
as strangers?” We learn from Rashi that Lavan did not even treat
them like daughters. He did not provide a dowry for them at the
time of marriage and tried to withhold funds by cheating Yaakov.
(Breishit 31:15). Lavan even cheated his own daughters!
When Lavan learned that Yaakov departed with his family,
he immediately pursued them, caught up with them, and said,
“There is power to my hand to do you harm” (Breishit 31:29). By
using the word “you” in the plural, he not only wanted to do evil
to Yaakov but even to his daughters and grandchildren as well.
It was only because Hashem warned him not to say to Yaakov
“good or bad” (Breishit 31:24) that Lavan did not actually destroy
his own family [2].
After this incident, Lavan decided to make a covenant with
Yaakov and said, “The daughters are my daughters, the children
are my children… What could I do to them this day?” (Breishit 31:
43). It seems as if Lavan regretted his previous intent to harm
his family. His subsequent behavior, however, indicated that this
remorse was not lasting and, perhaps, never even real.
Targum Yonatan in Bamidbar (22:5) and Yalkut Shimoni in Sh-
emot (168) noted that Lavan and the wicked Bilaam were one and
the same.
1
Lavan was called Bilaam because he wanted to devour,
livloah, Bnei Yisrael (Targum Yonatan in Bamidbar 22:5). The Zohar
(1:133b), however, says that Lavan was Bilaam’s grandfather, and
the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105a states that Lavan was Bilaam’s fa-
ther. In either case, Bilaam would be fulflling Lavan’s mission
as his descendant. When Pharaoh said, “Let us deal wisely with
them” (Shemot 1:10), referring to his plan to control the Jewish
people, the Gemara (Sota 11a) described how Bilaam spoke up and
advised Pharaoh to slay them. The Midrash Aggadah in Bamidbar
(22:21) commented that Yaakov foresaw that Bilaam would be
part of Pharaoh’s council. As a bribe, Yaakov, therefore, gave the
talking donkey that Hashem created on the sixth day of creation
to Lavan. In exchange for this, Lavan was expected to withhold
evil advice against the Jewish people. However, Bilaam suggested
that Bnei Yisrael should make bricks (Midrash Aggadah in Bamidbar
22:21), perpetually remain in bondage (Zohar 3:212a), and that
their babies be thrown into the Nile (Yalkut Shimoni in Shemot 168).
He also recommended to Pharaoh that he bathe in Jewish blood
to heal his leprosy (Midrash Hagadol, Shemot 2:23) and that Moshe
be killed for removing Pharaoh’s crown and placing it on his own
head (Yalkut Shimoni in Shemot 166) [3].
When Balak sent offcers to hire Bilaam to curse Bnei Yisrael,
he frst asked Hashem’s permission, but Hashem denied this re-
quest (Bamidbar 22:12). The Midrash Shocher Tov (1:22) commented
that Bilaam thought that it was because he, himself, was such a
righteous individual that Hashem did not wish to trouble him [3].
Additionally, Bilaam said to the offcers, “Hashem refuses to al-
low me to go with you” (Bamidbar 22:13). Rashi (Bamidbar 22:13)
explained that Bilaam was too haughty to admit that he was un-
1
Assuming that Lavan was approximately 10 years old when Rivka married
Yitzchak and and knowing that Lavan/Bilaam was killed in the 40
th
and
fnal year of Bnei Yisrael’s sojourn in the desert, Lavan would have lived
approximately 417 years. This is plausible given that there were people of
that era who lived for 500-600 years.
44 derech haTeva
der Hashem’s authority and, instead, implied that he could not
go with the “lowly” offcers that had been sent and demanded
greater. Such behavior clearly demonstrated Bilaam’s/Lavan’s
grandiose sense of self-worth.
When Hashem let Bilaam go with Balak’s offcers and com-
manded Bilaam to do what He said, Bilaam became so excited
that he saddled his own donkey. Rashi (Bamidbar 22:21) explained
that Bilaam himself impulsively saddled his own donkey instead
of having his servants because his intense hatred disrupted the
normal progression of things. In contrast, Avraham, himself sad-
dled his own donkey out of his love for Hashem and wanting to
do His Will by preparing Yitzchak for the akeidah (Rashi, Breishit
22:3). While impulsivity is a state of being, Avraham used it for
the good and Bilaam used it for evil. Hashem, therefore, called
Bilaam a rasha (Rashi, Bamidbar 22:21). This impulsivity fulflls
one of the criteria for antisocial personality disorder.
Although Bilaam was a prophet, his great powers came from
his mastery of sorcery and black magic. This is why he is called,
“Bilaam Hakosem,” Bilaam the Sorcerer (Ramban in Bamidbar
22:31). Illusion is a major contributor to the impure forces be-
hind sorcery [4]. The sorcerer can make someone believe that he
is seeing an event which is really not happening by incorporat-
ing trickery, slyness and confusion. The synthesized identity of
prophet and sorcerer in and of itself generates confusion. When
Pinchas and Bnei Yisrael killed Bilaam, Bnei Yisrael were worried
saying, “What have we done?! We have slain a prophet of whom it
is written, ‘Who knows the knowledge of the Most High’” (Bam-
idbar 24:16). However, a heavenly voice descended and said, “You
have slain a sorcerer, not a prophet” (Otzar Hamidrashim 168) [3].
This deceitfulness fulflls another criterion for the diagnosis of
antisocial personality disorder.
Antisocial personality disorder does not affect the ability to
reason. There is no evidence of brain impairment as those who
have this disorder score normally on neuropsychological testing.
Early theories suggested that psychopaths had abnormally low
levels of cerebral cortical arousal in their brains and a higher fear
threshold. They seek stimulation, intrigue and adventure without
concern for consequences. For example, they steal without fear
of being caught. It is thought that the reason for the lack of anxi-
ety in committing antisocial behavior is due to an imbalance of
the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) and the reward system.
The BIS, thought to be located in the septohippocampal system
involving the noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmitter
systems, is responsible for one’s ability to stop or slow down an
action when faced with impending punishment or danger. The
BIS is also associated with the fght or fight system, which helps
one decide to fght against or fee from an impending danger. The
reward system, located in the mesolimbic area of the brain and in-
volves the dopaminergic neurotransmitter system, is responsible
for one’s approach to positive rewards. When there is an imbal-
ance of the BIS and the reward system, the fear initiated by the
BIS system is superseded by the positive feelings associated with
the reward system. This may explain the lack of anxiety that the
psychopath experiences when committing antisocial acts [1].
Whether generically called a psychopath or formally con-
sidered to have antisocial social personality disorder, Lavan is by
all standards a wicked individual. Rashi (Breishit 24:50) explicitly
called Lavan a rasha; Concerning Eliezer’s request to immediately
bring Rivka to Yitzchak, Lavan, not waiting for his father to re-
spond, impulsively jumped to answer Eliezer. Pirkei Avot (5:22)
related the three characteristics of the disciples of Bilaam: “An
evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a lusting soul [3].” These are the
characteristics of one who has antisocial personality disorder.
When Lavan fnally spoke sweetly to Yaakov saying, “I would
have sent you out joyfully and with song, with drum and harp,”
(Breishit 31:27) Yaakov was terrifed, thinking that he must have
sinned in that “tu’mah, impurity, and kedusha, sanctity, cannot dwell
side by side [2].” A person like Lavan has full reasoning capability
and can restrain himself from performing criminal acts. Perhaps,
Hashem specifcally related so much of Lavan’s evil to teach us
that although one may be tested with great desire for money, a
high threshold for experiencing fear, and a cunning mind, he/she
is still not permitted to succumb. Every person is presented with
different tests and challenges. However, it is one’s reactions and
attitudes to these challenges that defne the essence of the indi-
vidual [5]. The Torah teaches us that although Lavan might have
had such challenges, his reactions and intentions to them were all
negative, thereby defning him as a rasha from whom to learn how
not to behave.
DSM features of antisocial personality disorder include a
person at least 18 years of age, failure to conform to social norms,
deceitfulness including use of aliases, impulsivity, aggressiveness,
every person is presented with different
tests and challenges. however, it is one’s
reactions and attitudes to these challenges
that defne the essence of the individual.
derech haTeva 45
referenceS
[1] Durand, M. V. and Barlow, D. H. 2010. Essentials of Abnormal Psychology, ffth edition. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
[2] Nachshoni, Y. 1991. Studies in The Weekly Parashah, Bereishis. Mesorah Publications, Ltd., Brooklyn, NY.
[3] Chasidah, Y. (2000). Ecyclopedia of Biblical Personalities: Anthologized from the Talmud, Midrash, and Rabbinic Writings, 5th impression. Mesorah
Publications, Ltd. Brooklyn, NY.
[4] Aboud, Rabbi E. H. (2010). The Supernatural Revealed. Community. Vol. 10: 60-63.
[5] Shafer, Rabbi B. T. 2010. The Shmuz on Life book: Stop Surviving and Start Living. SYS Marketing Inc., Monsey, NY.
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I wish to thank Rav Mordechai Tendler, Shlita, for his review of this article and genuine concern. I thank my parents for their unconditional support and
assistance. Last, but by no means least, I extend warmest appreciation to Dr. Harvey Babich for his continual guidance and sincere kindness.
reckless disregard for the safety of others, consistent irresponsi-
bility for payment, and lack of remorse for harming others [1]. It
is fair to conclude that Lavan could be diagnosed with antisocial
personality disorder. According to halachic standards, however,
such a diagnosis does not preclude accountability for actions.
g
46 derech haTeva
Mi ri Mandel baum
f A M i l i A l d y S A u T o n o M i A A n d T h e P u r S u i T o f
g e n e T i c h e A l T h
amilial dysautonomia (FD) is an Ashkenazi Jewish genetic
disease affecting the sensory and autonomic nervous
systems. Among other symptoms, children born with
the disease cannot control their blood pressure, body
temperature, and heart rate. They have trouble swallowing and
digesting food properly, have reduced sensitivity to pain and
temperature, and cannot produce tears [1].
An estimated, 1 in 27 Ashkenazi Jews are carriers of the FD
mutation [1]. The mutation is found on the long arm of chromo-
some 9 (on the IKBKAP gene). Since the mutation is recessive, a
person will only exhibit the FD trait if he carries the mutation on
both #9 chromosomes. A heterozygote, with one mutated and
one normal functioning gene, is a carrier of FD. Although he will
not exhibit any adverse symptoms, if he conceives a child with
another carrier, there is a 1 in 4 chance that their child will inherit
the mutation from both parents and will have the disorder [2].
It is speculated that the FD mutation originated in Eastern
Europe as a result of the founder effect [3]. The Ashkenazi Jew-
ish population descended from a signifcantly small number of
ancestors. Any mutations they carried were passed on to their
children and amplifed throughout the generations. The founder
effect is one major cause of Jewish genetic diseases [4].
In Europe prior to the twentieth century, technology was not
yet advanced enough to maintain the lives of FD babies. Because
child mortality was fairly common, no attention was paid to these
babies in particular. It was not until the 1940s that the disease
was identifed. Doctors Riley and Day, while working in Colum-
bia Presbyterian Babies Hospital, discovered similarities between
some of the sick babies. The disease they uncovered became
known as Riley-Day Syndrome.
As modern medicine progressed, children born with Riley-
Day Syndrome, also known as familial dysautonomia, began to
live longer, allowing for more research [3]. Parents of children
with FD founded the Dysautonomia Foundation in 1951, a public
charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with FD [1].
In 1970, Dr. Felicia Axelrod formed a treatment center for these
In loving memory of Michael Zauder a”h, who inspired us with his strength
and warmed our hearts with his smile.
f
children at New York University Medical Center.
Towards the end of the 1980s, scientists began to work to
identify the gene carrying the FD mutation. Understanding the
advantages of having the gene identifed, Dr. Axelrod suggested
that the Dysautonomia Foundation fund the discovery of the
gene. A Harvard Medical School laboratory funded by the foun-
dation discovered genetic markers, i.e., similar DNA sequences,
within FD families. The markers did not identify the FD gene,
but they did open the option of preimplantation genetic diagno-
sis (PGD) for couples who already had a child with FD. PGD is
a procedure developed by Jewish researchers, originally to allow
carriers of the Tay-Sachs gene to have healthy children. In this
procedure, cells from a preembryo produced by in vitro fertiliza-
tion (IVF) are tested for mutations before being implanted in the
mother. In the case of FD, preembryo cells could be tested for
the DNA markers common amongst FD families. This option
was diffcult, not 100% reliable, and could only be used for af-
fected families. The gene carrying the FD mutation was identifed
in 2000. A carrier-screening test became available to the public
in 2001 as an easy way for anyone to know if he carries the FD
mutation.
Two different mutations on the IKBKAP gene account for
99% of FD cases. A third mutation was discovered in one or
two cases. Dysautonomia treatment centers test patients for these
mutations. If a patient does not carry one of the three known
mutations, a new mutation can potentially be found.
By identifying the gene and through the use of modern tech-
nology, couples in which both parties carry the FD mutation can
avoid conceiving a child with the disease. PGD is much more
reliable now that the actual gene can be tested for instead of the
DNA markers. Additionally, much genetic research is being done.
By researching the discrepancies between what the gene should
be doing and what it actually does, genetic therapies are being de-
An estimated 1 in 27 Ashkenazi Jews are
carriers of the fd mutation.
derech haTeva 47
veloped. These therapies try to correct the gene by constructing
the correct protein. Another research methodology is through
laboratory animal models. The defective gene is inserted into the
genome of an animal, commonly a mouse. Researchers can per-
form tests on the animal to learn more about the effects of the
mutation and how it can be corrected [3].
The Dysautonomia Foundation, headquartered in New York
City, continues to provide the largest source of funding for FD
research. It also funds the world’s two FD treatment centers, one
at New York University Medical Center and the other in Hadassah
Hospital in Jerusalem. As a result of the work of these centers,
the quality of life for people with FD has improved signifcantly.
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. David Brenner, Executive Director of the Dysautonomia Foundation, for all the assistance he provided me with
the researching of this article. On behalf of myself and my family, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work that Mr. Brenner does for individuals
with FD. Thank you to Dr. Babich for his constant encouragement. A special thank you to my parents for their endless support.
referenceS
[1] Dysautonomia Foundation Inc., wwww.familialdysautonomia.org, (retrieved January 23, 2011).
[2] Wahrman, M. Z. (2002). Familial dysautonomia. In Brave New Judaism: When Science and Scripture Collide. University Press of New England, Hanover
and London. pp. 99-101.
[3] Brenner, D., Executive Director of Dysautonomia Foundation, personal communications
[4] Rothenburg, K. H., and Rutkin A. B. (1998). Toward a framework of mutualism: The Jewish community in genetics research. Comm. Genet. 1:148-153.
Life expectancy has risen from 5 years to 40 years. However, af-
fected individuals still suffer from symptoms that prevent them
from leading normal lives [1].
With the availability of genetic screening for the FD muta-
tion, the birth of children with FD can be completely avoided.
However, as long as people remain unaware of the importance
of genetic testing, not only for FD but for all genetic diseases,
affected babies are still being born. Rabbinical leaders should be
aware, ensuring that couples are tested before getting married. It
is extremely important that couples know if they are carriers for a
genetic disease before having children. Appropriate measures can
then be taken to ensure the birth of a healthy baby [3]. g
48 derech haTeva
always wonder what people think when they see me
mumbling under my breath after I exit the restroom. Little
do they realize the great importance and holiness of the
words I am saying. The bracha of asher yatzar is rich with
meaning, and there are many interpretations of each phrase.
In the beginning of the bracha, we acknowledge that G-d
formed man, b’chachmah, with wisdom. The Maharsha brings up
a few possible explanations for this phrase. The chachmah can re-
fer to the wisdom of the Almighty in creating man, a very com-
plex, delicate, and detailed being. A second explanation is that the
chachmah also refers to the wisdom of man (Brachos 60a). When
creating Adam, G-d bestowed in him the ability to make deci-
sions, think, and use common sense. The two explanations work
together beautifully. Hashem, in His wisdom, made man very com-
plex with a very detailed and delicate body, yet He supplied man
with a brain capable of knowing how to care for it.
There are many dangerous things in the world today—from
terrorists and criminals to genotoxic agents and poisonous chemi-
cals and from harmful fumes to natural disasters. Many of these
risks are out of our hands, and we can only pray and hope that we
will not encounter them. But there are a whole handful of ways
we can use the chachmah that G-d graciously granted us, and avoid
as many hazards as we can—by leading a healthy lifestyle [1].
It has been scientifcally proven that tobacco use poses a def-
nite health danger. In the numerous studies done, smoking has
been linked to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, pancreatic can-
cer, and many other serious diseases. In fact, most of the medical
research community agrees that any amount of smoking will lead
to physiological damage. If this is really the case, that smoking
causes a defnite health hazard and accelerates the approach of
death, it may actually breach the Torah obligation of “v’nishmartem
meod l’nafshoseichem” and the violation of harming oneself [1].
The smoking issue goes even further. The Shulchan Aruch dis-
cusses the prohibition for a Jew to strike another, and the Torah
is even strict in regards to striking a wicked person. Since it is
forbidden for one Jew to harm another, and inhaling second hand
smoke is a health hazard, it therefore may also be halachically un-
lawful to smoke in another’s presence. In fact, Reb Moshe Fein-
stein, zt”l, held that people who were harmed by other’s smoking
habits were even authorized according to halacha to fle a suit for
damages [1]. The best way to use our G-d-given chachmah, then,
would be to avoid smoking—and denounce it in our communi-
ties.
Another way in which we can use chachmah is in choosing
what to eat. A kosher-only diet already restricts much of the aver-
age supermarket. But it may be halachically necessary to restrict it
even more, and make only healthy choices. In 2000, smoking was
proven to be the leading cause of preventable death, but obesity
was not far behind; in fact it came in second. Not enough at-
tention is given in the frum communities to the importance of
eating healthy foods, and avoiding trans fats and unhealthy food
ingredients. The Rambam pointed out that it is possible to eat
only kosher foods—such as avoiding milk and meat, pork, and
shellfsh—and still be oveir the mitzvah of “kedoshim tihiyu,” which
according to the Rambam is meant to warn people not to eat in
glut. He stated in the Mishnah Torah that “overeating is like a
deathly poison to the body, and is the root of all illnesses. Most
illnesses that affict a man are caused by harmful food or by over-
eating even healthy food” [2].
Obesity poses a severe health risk, which is expressed in
many ways: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes,
stroke, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and respiratory prob-
lems—just to name a few. However, the obesity issue is not as
clear cut as the smoking issue. First of all, some people are geneti-
cally predisposed to be heavier. Secondly, everybody needs to eat
to survive; at what point would the extra bite become halachically
considered too much [2]?
Although many rabbanim agree that smoking and eating
Sara Margol i s
W o r d S T o T h e W i S e
i
hashem, in his wisdom, made man very
complex with a very detailed and delicate
body, yet he supplied man with a brain
capable of knowing how to care for it.
derech haTeva 49
unhealthily are halachically assur, not all rabbis see eye to eye on
this issue. Some bring up the source from tehillim, “shomer petaim
Hashem” (G-d protects the simple), which is expounded upon in
the Talmud and used as source of reliance on G-d for protect-
ing people from the “everyday” dangers in life. (For instance, it
permits people to engage in common but risky behaviors—such
as driving.) But according to Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger in his sefer
Teshuvot Binyan Tziyon, this leniency can only be relied upon if the
risk of danger is lower than 50%; according to the Chasam Sofer,
this passuk is only valid when one is not fully aware of the dan-
gers involved. Perhaps the rabbanim who claimed that smoking
and overeating are not halachically assur were basing their decision
on the scientifc research of their times, and were not aware of all
the health risks involved that we know of today. In the late 1990s,
Rabbi Efraim Greenblatt stated that smoking is suicide; he com-
pared the reliance on the “shomer petaim Hashem” passuk to allow
smoking, to lying on the ground in the middle of a highway hop-
ing that G-d will intervene! Rav Nebenzhal wrote that we surely
cannot rely on the passuk because we see clearly that G-d is not
protecting smokers from harm. In 2006, the Rabbinical Council
of America (R.C.A.) issued a statement which expressed its frm
belief that smoking is prohibited and that with today’s scientifc
evidence, it would even be pronounced assur even by the earlier
rabbanim who did not think it was [2].
Studies continue to support exercise as a source of improved
health and longer lifespan. Besides lowering the risk of heart dis-
ease and stroke, staying physically active generally improves the
body’s functions and slows the aging process [3]. Using our G-
d-given wisdom to live as healthfully as we can does not only in-
clude the preventative measures—like the avoidance of smoking
and intake of trans fats. It is also important to be proactive about
our health by exercising regularly.
Another related area, of using chachmah to live a healthy life,
is making regular visits to the doctor and dentist—even for rou-
tine checkups or to inquire about a new symptom. Medical non-
compliance, which comes in many forms—like not following a
doctor’s advice, turning to unreliable Internet sources for medical
information, and heeding the medical advice from well-meaning
neighbors, friends, and relatives—is a serious issue that plagues
much of our society. [4]. The Meharsha, in his explanation of
“b’chachmah”, makes a distinction between man and other living
things; Hashem gave special wisdom to man only which He did
not grant to the animal kingdom ( Brachos 60a). We, citizens of
the human race, should not take our wisdom for granted. We have
modern medicine and advanced scientifc research, and we have
doctors and dentists; medical noncompliance puts our chachmah
to waste.
When I say asher yatsar, I try to think about the dual meaning
of “b’chachmah.” Hashem, in His infnite wisdom, made us intri-
cate, complicated human creatures. And, He, in His unbounded
kindness, gave us the special gift of wisdom to care for our bod-
ies. As observant Jews, it is best to use our gift of chachmah to lead
a healthy lifestyle—by not smoking, by eating right, by regularly
exercising, and by pursuing proper medical guidance.
g
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
Thank you Dad for your research help and your editing skills. (And sinse I didnt let you read the aknowladgments, their are probabably at least a few typos
hear…) Thank you Mom for always educating us to eat healthy and organic food (go quinoa!), to exercise, and to stay far away from smoking, food coloring,
and other “poisons”. (I am sorry for sometimes rebelling at the school snack machines.) Thank you Dr. Babich for encouraging me to write this article, for
being a true role model, and for all your help and guidance along the way.
referenceS
[1] Berman, Rabbi S. J., Bulka, Rabbi R., Landes, Rabbi D., and Woolf, Rabbi J.R. (2005). Rabbis condemn smoking. Jewish Med.l Ethics. 5: 56-59.
[2] Hulkower, R.l. (2010). Can eating an unhealthy diet be halachically forbidden? Is trans fat the new smoking? -Jewish Med. Ethics. 7: 48-57.
[3] Fentem, P. H. (1994). ABC of sports medicine: Benefts of exercise in health and disease. BMJ 308 : 1291
[4] Benjamin, R. (2008). Do we really watch our health? Intercom 5: 3-13.
50 derech haTeva
Jul i et Mei r
h e r M A P h r o d i T e : A n o T h e r g e n d e r ?
hen we think of gender, we normally think of
female and male. But what about individuals with
ambiguous genitalia, i.e. hermaphrodites - how do
we categorize them? This question is not as recent
as it might seem; hermaphrodites have been discussed in rabbinic
literature for centuries. Accordingly, these people are believed to
be considered in one of fve possible categories: male, female,
part male and part female, a distinct safek (doubt) that will never
be resolved, or berya bifnei atzma, “a unique creature with its own
characteristics” [1]. It is also vital to understand that our sages
qualify gender based on external organs only [2]; referring to vagina
in the case of a female, and penis in the case of a male. In this
article I will introduce the biological development of gender in the
womb, then discuss the rabbinic decision of gender concerning
hermaphrodites, and subsequently, elucidate hermaphrodites’
position in the world based on their halakhic gender.
Gender determination extends from the time of conception
to the time when the fetus’ genital ridge becomes a bi-potential
gonad. The genetic composition (XX or XY) of the fetus is deter-
mined at conception; however, the organ development of either
ovaries or testes is predicated on the biochemical conditions [2]
that are established at the time of expression or lack of expres-
sion of the SRY gene, which occurs either 40 or 80 days after
conception, respectively [3]. In selective cases, there is an incon-
sistency between the genetic gender (XX or XY) and the external
or internal organs, which can result in a hermaphrodite [2]. Some
causes to produce a hermaphrodite include: the differential ex-
pression of alleles from cell to cell, due to fusion or infusion of
foreign genetic material [1], double fertilization from more than a
single sperm or egg [4], and postzygotic somatic point mutation
in the SRY region of the Y chromosome [5].
The majority of poskim and rishonim hold that of the fve gen-
der possibilities of a hermaphrodite, its status is that of a safek.
Accordingly, the majority of rishonim follow the opinion of the
Rambam, who is the most stringent and who stated that a her-
maphrodite [1], otherwise known as an androginos in Hebrew [6],
is a “safek if it is a male or female, and there is no sign by which it would
be known conclusively if it is male or female.” According to this view, a
hermaphrodite would be obligated to follow all Jewish laws per-
taining to both females and males because its gender status is in
doubt [1].
It is in accord with this strict opinion that hermaphrodites
must perform the following mitzvot like a male: They are required
to have a brit; however, unlike for other males, the brit is per-
formed without a blessing and cannot be done on Shabbat. In ad-
dition, a hermaphrodite is obligated to keep all time-bound mitzvot
and is obligated to wear tzitzit and phylacteries [1]. On the other
hand, he is not able to testify in court, receive the priestly gifts
if he is a cohen, or serve as a priest in the Beit Hamikdash [6]. The
only prohibition for which there is a leniency, and which differs
among the different categories of hermaphrodite, is the prohibi-
tion of yichud. Rabbi Elyashiv quoted the Ramah, who said that the
prohibition of yichud does not apply to a hermaphrodite who is
signifcantly more one gender and is in the presence of that same
gender [1]. There are many other questions, including whether
hermaphrodites are required to go to the mikvah or obligated to
cover their hair, depending upon their halakhic status.
After reading and trying to grasp all of this information, you
may think that the probability of meeting someone or even know-
ing someone who is a hermaphrodite is uncommon and even not
probable. However, according to some interpretations, Adam
Ha’Rishon was a hermaphrodite. The Bible states “male and female
He created them,” and according to the interpretation of Rabbi
Yirmiyahu ben Eleazar, that meant that Adam was a hermaph-
rodite [6]. At the end of the day, the gender of a hermaphrodite
according to medical literature is that they are both male and fe-
male, and according to Jewish law, they are a safek that cannot be
resolved.
g
W
According to this view, a hermaphrodite
would be obligated to follow all Jewish laws
pertaining to both females and males
because its gender status is in doubt.
derech haTeva 51
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to thank my friends Avigail Soloveichik and Jacob Chusid for their help editing my article. I would also like to thank Dr. Babich for fnding the
Judaic articles I used and for editing my paper. Lastly, but most importantly, I would like to thank my parents for supporting my education.
referenceS
[1] Wiesen, J. and D. Kulak. (2007). “Male and female He created them:” Revisiting gender assignment and treatment in intersex children. J. Halacha Contemp.
Soc. 54: 5-30.
[2] Weitzman, G. (2009). Is gender determined by external organs or by genes? B’Or Ha’Torah. 19: 27-35.
[3] Poltorak, L. (2007). On the embryological foresight of the Talmud. B’Or Ha’Torah. 19: 19-24.
[4] Gartler, S.M., Waxman, S.H., and Giblett, E. (1962). An XX/XY human hermaphrodite resulting from double fertilization. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA.
48: 332-335.
[5] Braun, A., Kammerer, S., Cleve, H., Löhrs, U., Schwartz, H-P., and Kuhnle, U. (1993). True hermaphroditism in a 46, XY individual, caused by postzygotic
somatic point mutation in the male gonadal sex-determining locus (SRY): Molecular genetics and histological fndings in a sporadic case. Am. J. Hum.
Genet. 52:578-585.
[6] Preuss, J. (1993). Biblical AND Talmudic Medicine. Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, NJ. (translated by Dr. F. Rosner).
52 derech haTeva
leora Perl ow
d e f i n i n g T h e h u M A n S P e c i e S : A n e x A M i n A T i o n
o f T r A n S g e n i c A P e S i n h A l A c h A
cientists today are capable of inserting human DNA
into species of the “great apes,” granting them human
characteristics. The transgenic product of such an
experiment raises many moral and halachic (of Jewish
law) issues. If enough human DNA is added to an ape, at what
point does it become a biological human? To fully answer this
question, we must frst look at how our species, the Homo sapiens
or ben enosh (son of man), is defned by the Torah. This article
will examine what it is that makes us human despite our genetic
similarity to apes and to transgenic ape-humans, how such species
are viewed by halacha, and lastly, the biblical prohibition of kilayim
(crossbred species).
The question of what makes humans unique has occupied
the minds of philosophers, both Jewish and Gentile, since the
beginning of time. Are we really that biologically different from
the great apes? Recent studies show that genetically, the difference
between humans and the great apes (which include chimpanzees,
orangutans, and gorillas) is minimal. The approximate genetic sim-
ilarity between chimpanzees and humans is 98.5% [1]. Scientists
(but not halachic thinkers) claim that as little as fve million years
ago, a single creature was the common ancestor of humans, chim-
panzees, and bonobos. Writes Lee Silver in his book Challenging
Nature, “nonhuman organisms evolved gradually through a fuzzy
evolutionary stage of partial humanness before slowly morphing
into the species we call Homo sapiens” [2]. Some, like the authors
of The Great Ape Project believe that this statistic should impact
society profoundly: “we have now suffcient information about
the capacities of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans to make it
clear that the moral boundary we draw between us and them is indefensible.
Hence the time is ripe for extending full moral equality to members
of other species, and the case for doing so is overwhelming” [3].
However, most humans are not quite ready to welcome chimpan-
zees to their homes as guests or to grant orangutans voting rights
for the upcoming elections.
According to Jewish tradition, the weighty biological title of
human can be placed on an individual only if and when three nec-
essary conditions are met. The frst stipulation is that the individ-
ual in question must be human-born or formed within a human;
the second is that the individual must possess moral intelligence
(to be discussed in further detail below); and the third is that the
individual must be capable of producing offspring with another
human [4]. Only one of these three conditions is necessary to be
considered a human by halacha [4].
The earliest sources stating that humans must be formed
within or born from a human are those in the Tanach, Midrash,
and Talmud which refer to man as “yelud isha” [5], literally “one
who is born from a woman.” The Chacham Tzvi was frst to derive
from the language of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 57b) that any being
formed within a woman is human and that killing such an indi-
vidual would constitute murder. This view is supported by Rabbi
Eleazar Fiekeles and later the Hazon Ish in his writing that an aber-
rant fetus that was miscarried is similar to a human in regard to
the laws of burial and mourning [4]. Thus a human is any indi-
vidual who has the characteristic of being formed within or born
from a human.
The second condition that defnes the human race according
to halacha is more complicated than that described above; it is the
trait of da’at or moral intelligence. Rashi [6] (supported by Tar-
gum Unkulus and Rambam) wrote that humans are unique because
of their ability to differentiate between good and evil, a trait not
found within the animal kingdom. This is why the Seven Noahide
Laws (the set of laws given to Noah as moral imperatives) were
given to all of mankind. Rashi did not include IQ, intellect, or the
ability to learn in his defnition. Rather, he looked solely upon the
trait of sechel, moral intelligence. Maimonides [7] and Rabbi Akiva
(as quoted by Bereishit Rabba) included free will in their defnitions
of da’at [8]. Another possible aspect of da’at is that it includes
speech. The ability to express oneself in as wide a vocabulary as
S
What if a chimera were made of human
and ape dnA? how much “human”
dnA would have to be added to make a
chimpanzee biologically one of us?
derech haTeva 53
our own may be a distinguishing human feature [6].
The third method of gaining admission to the human race is
the ability to produce human offspring with a fellow human. The
Talmud in Sanhedrin 58a assumes that only humans can success-
fully reproduce with other humans. Thus, if a human offspring is
born of two parents, then both parents are, by defnition, human
as well.
Interestingly, non-halachic thinkers agree with two of
the three qualities to defne what classifes an organism as
a human being. Silver addressed the frst human feature:
“[t]he one biological attribute that every reader of this book
shares in addition to a human brain, is biologically human parents”

[2]. This claim that all humans have Homo sapiens parents agrees
with the frst halachic defnition of humans, that humans must be
formed within or born from another human.
Silver also agreed with the second defnition of humans:
“The ability (or potential) to speak and use symbolic language
is commonly considered human-defning.” Speech is one of the
manifestations of da’at, the second human-defning quality. This
argument is supported by Josie Appleton who claimed that hu-
mans evolved because of “a refnement in the vocal tract, allowing
a greater range of sounds for speech.” Appleton also described
a moral aspect of this defnition: “Humans are the measure of
all things: morality starts with us”

[9]. Both Silver and Appleton’s
explanations fall into place with different aspects of da’at, the sec-
ond human-defning characteristic.
As to the third defning trait of humans, no scientifc pub-
lication today claims that progeny of a human must be human,
because this may simply not be true. Explained Silver, “Chimps
and humans are so similar to each other chromosomally that most
scientists believe hybrids formed between the two probably could
develop and be born alive” [2]. The assumption in the Talmud
Sanhedrin 58a that an offspring of a cross between humans and
apes would not be viable is not taken at face value by Silver.
All of this bantering about what makes us human was purely
theoretical for the entire history of mankind - that is, up until
only a few years ago when genetic engineering accelerated into
realms we never even knew existed. The frst chimera (an organ-
ism which is composed of both human and animal genetic mate-
rial) was an immunodefcient mouse in which human stem cells
were inserted, allowing it to develop the immune system that it
initially lacked.
What if a chimera were made of human and ape DNA? How
much “human” DNA would have to be added to make a chim-
panzee biologically one of us? Would it make a difference which
human parts were formed? Let us return to the halachic qualifca-
tions of a human.
As to the frst halachic human characteristic, the transgenic
ape would not be human-born or formed. The animal would be
born an ape, albeit it may contain some inserted human DNA
or even a human organ. (Parenthetically, it is because a chimera
could never be human- born that it also could never be born Jew-
ish. Regardless of the amount of human genetic material that is
added to an animal, if an organism is not born to a Jewish human
mother, it cannot be Jewish.)
Would a human-ape transgenic creation achieve da’at, the sec-
ond defning trait of humans? If human brain cells were inserted
into an ape, this could be possible. Such research has scientifc
merit, as it would teach us about Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, or
brain cancer, yet it may also unintentionally give apes that spark
of moral intelligence that distinguishes animals from humans.
Singer portrayed an experiment in which the cerebral cortex (the
part of the brain that solves problems and thinks abstractly) was
increased in a chimpanzee so that it would be of a size equiva-
lent to that of the human cerebral cortex. To accomplish this,
researchers would simply increase the amount of neurons in the
chimpanzee embryo. Such experiments could lessen the cranial
difference between humans and the great apes [3]. (It should be
noted that from a halachic perspective, an intelligent ape remains
an ape; the neshama is unique to humans).
Finally, the third condition: would a transgenic ape-human
be able to produce human offspring with a human? “It soon may
be possible to transplant human stem cells into animal fetuses to
alter their sex organs and provide them with the capacity to gener-
ate human sperm and eggs,” stated Dr. John Loike and Rabbi Dr.
Moshe Tendler [10]. Thus, if human genetic material was added
to an embryo of a chimpanzee, the resultant organism could po-
tentially have human gonads, enabling it to successfully mate with
another human and produce human offspring. As bizarre as this
may sound, such a chimera would be biologically human.
Inserting human genetic material into a member of the great
ape species appears at face value to be a clear violation of the bib-
lical prohibition of crossbreeding. The Torah commands, “You
shall not let your cattle gender with a diverse kind; you shall not
sow your feld with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled
of linen and woolen come upon you” [11].
Dr. Loike and Rabbi Dr. Tendler stated that, for two rea-
sons, genetic engineering does not fall under the prohibition of
crossbreeding. Firstly, the chimera’s body is a “mosaic composi-
tion of cells.” Each cell has DNA of only one of the parent species. The
54 derech haTeva
biblical prohibition of crossbreeding refers to creating an animal
with the DNA of both parents in each of its cells. Secondly, the Bi-
ble’s motive for prohibiting crossbreeding may be inapplicable to
transgenic species, since the prohibition exists primarily because
offspring from such a union are sterile. Human-ape chimeras,
however, may not be infertile, as explained above, thus deeming
their creation permissible [10].
In her book Brave New Judaism, Dr. Miriam Wahrman wrote
about “brave new animals,” or at least transgenic ones, in relation
to the prohibition of kilayim. She cited the Hazon Ish’s claim that
although sexual contact is forbidden between different species of
animals, artifcial insemination is permitted to produce a hybrid
species [12]. According to this ruling, it seems that chimeras are
permissible. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbauch, a leading halachic au-
thority in Israel today, also did not consider genetic engineering to
fall under the prohibition of kilayim [12].
A commentary on the Mishna [13] explained that, “The well-
known maxim applies, a minority becomes annulled in a majority,
or a major disannuls a minor quantity, or the lesser is canceled by
the larger.” Since in a human-ape chimera, the majority of DNA
is ape DNA and the minority is human DNA, it can be inferred
that the human DNA would be “annulled” or overridden since it
is the minority.
Rabbi Jekutiel Judah Greenwald believed that an “engrafted
or transplanted cornea becomes nullifed on the recipient” [14].
He based this ruling on the Talmud that stated: “If he grafted a
young shoot on an old stem, the young shoot is annulled by the
old stem. The law of orlah (the prohibition of benefting from a
tree in the frst three years after it was planted) does not apply.
The young shoot does not retain its status; it acquires the status
of the old tree” [15]. According to this view, any human DNA
inserted in a member of the great ape species would be lost in the
recipient, rendering the chimera an ape.
To summarize, various explanations for chimeras not violat-
ing the prohibition of crossbreeding include: (1) each individual
cell in the chimera is only from one parental type, (2) chimeras are
not necessarily sterile, (3) sexual contact between two different
species need not occur, (4) genetic engineering is not considered
kilayim, (5) a minority of genetic material is annulled in a majority
(thus halachically rendering the chimera a pure species), and (6) the
donor material becomes part of the recipient.
Despite the sources that incline halachic authorities to dub
transgenic species acceptable, the issue of kavod habriyot (human
sanctity) cannot be overlooked. This sanctity results from the Di-
vine origin of our creation. Judaism considers humans to be cre-
ated in the “image of God.” Dr. Loike and Rabbi Dr. Tendler best
defned this as: “humans beings are created as a unique species
with certain obligations to partner with God in the preservation
and improvement of the world.” Judaism believes that God gave
us dominion of the planet for us to beneft. This includes tech-
nological advances, which are permitted as long as they are used
for the improvement of the world. We need not fear playing God;
rather we need to fear “playing human inappropriately” [10].
According to Dr. Loike and Rabbi Dr. Tendler, “if recon-
stituting human brain cells in animal fetuses were to impart hu-
man-like intelligence, self awareness, and personality to the hu-
man-monkey chimera, then it would be a denigration . . . a major
affront to human dignity and the sanctity of human beings” [10].
Humans were created in the image of God. To take the wisdom
that God granted to our species alone and to implant it in other
species is an insult to our Creator.
Interestingly, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
agreed. In 2005, it published the “Guidelines for Human Em-
bryonic Stem Cell Research,” in which the NAS dubbed research
in which human embryonic stem cells were inserted into nonhu-
man primate embryos as “a threat to human dignity” and forbade
any such creations [16]. Such scientists, thereby agreeing with phi-
losophers of Jewish thought, have recognized the value of kavod
habriyot.
Our world is one in which the once-sharp distinction be-
tween humans and animals grows blurrier with each new scien-
tifc discovery. Heaping genetic evidence that humans are closely
related to the great apes and revolutionary strides taken in genetic
engineering cause many to worry that “[t]hough well equipped,
we know not who we are or where we are going . . . Engineering
the engineer as well as the engine, we race our train we know not
where” [17]. Recent technological discoveries enable production
of ape-human chimeras, a hybrid that raises many questions in
halacha, as a topic of its own and in the realm of kilayim.
The very recognition of the plethora of moral questions that
arise and the attempt to derive answers from ancient texts proves
The very recognition of the plethora of
moral questions that arise and the attempt
to derive answers from ancient texts
proves us to be a moral and thus human
species.
derech haTeva 55
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to express my sincere gratitude toward Dr. Babich for providing the sources for this essay. His enthusiasm for Torah U’Madda motivated me to
develop the ideas found within this work. Additionally, I would like to thank Rabbi Eliezer Lerner of Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim for his review of the
Torah content. Finally, I wish to express my appreciation for my parents’ constant support and encouragement.
referenceS
[1] Science Daily. Comparing Chimp, Human DNA. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/06013104633.htm (retrieved September 2, 2010)
[2] Silver, L. M. (2006). Challenging Nature: the Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life. New York, NY: Ecco. pp. 83-187
[3] Cavalieri, P. and Singer, P. (1993). Preface. In The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity. London.
[4] Loike, J. and Tendler, M., (2004). Ma Adam Va-teda-ehu: Halakhic criteria for defning human beings. Tradition. 37:1-19.
[5] Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4; Yoma 75b; Nidda 13a; Devarim Rabba 35:2; Tanhuma Mishpatim 19; Pekkudei 3
[6] Genesis 3:22
[7] Maimonides, Hilkhot Teshuva 5:1
[8] Bereishit Rabba 12:5
[9] Appleton, J. (2007). Animals Are Not Equal to Humans. In Animal Experimentation: Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale. pp
44-53.
[10] Loike, J. and Tendler, M. (2008). Reconstituting a human brain in animals: A Jewish perspective on human sanctity. Kennedy Inst. Ethics J. 18:347-
367.
[11] Leviticus 19:19
[12] Wahrman, M. Z. (2002). Brave New Judaism: When Science and Scripture Collide. Hanover and London: Brandeis University Press.
[13] Blackman, P. ed. The Mishnah. Footnote on Kilayim 9:1 Mishnayoth Vol I: Order Zerayim. (Gatehead, England. Judaica Press 1964)
[14] Rosner, F. (1979). Organ transplant in Jewish Law. In Jewish Bioethics, Rosner, F. and Bleich, J.D (ed). Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, NY.
ipp 358-379.
[15] Talmud Sotah 43b
[16] NAS. National Academy of Sciences (2005). Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.
[17] Gerdes, L. I. (2004). Genetic Engineering: Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven.
us to be a moral and thus human species. Once transgenic apes
begin to recognize this dilemma and similarly derive conclusions,
the biologically barrier between our two species will no longer ex-
ist, for it is precisely this morality that defnes a human.
g
56 derech haTeva
Kate rosenbl att
T h e r e S o n A n c e o f J e r i c h o
he story of the fall of the walls of Jericho notes that the
Israelites walked around the city walls, blew their horns,
and roared in unison, procedures which fashioned the
miraculous outcome of Jericho’s fate. However, in an
age without modern technology, how could a series of seemingly
random and weak measures have caused the destruction of the
walls of Jericho? Below is the text of the Biblical narrative in
which it is clearly evident that no use of “traditional” weapons
was used to invade the city – not even a bow and arrow.
“You and your marching men should march around the town
once a day for six days. Seven Priests will walk ahead of the Ark,
each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march
around the town seven times with the priests blowing the horns.
When you hear the priests give one long blast on the ram’s horns,
have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of
the town will collapse” (Joshua 6: 3-5).
If we dig through the pesukim for evidence of some type of
“weapon,” we could withdraw some insight into the type of force
that the Israelites used as they approached Jericho, a city having
“walls that reached to the sky” (Deuteronomy 9:1). The three in-
structions that G-d listed for Joshua involve some sort of me-
chanical force (thousands of men marching around the city) and
acoustic force (priests continually blowing the shofarot and thou-
sands of men yelling in unison). Actually, the narrative references
what very well might have been both mechanical and acoustic
resonance [1].
In physics, resonance is the tendency of an object to oscil-
late at larger amplitude at preferred frequencies. These preferred
frequencies are the object’s resonant frequencies. Every object, no
matter how fexible or stiff it may be, has a natural frequency of
vibration. If a periodic series of driving forces is applied to an ob-
ject, the object will eventually begin to vibrate with the frequency
of the driving force instead of its own natural frequency of vi-
bration. If the driving frequency is close to the natural frequency,
then this driving frequency is a resonant frequency, and the object
will vibrate with larger amplitude. The object will vibrate with
smaller amplitude if the driving frequency is different from the
natural frequency of vibration of the object [2].
T
There are various types of resonance, one type of which we
have all had experience with – mechanical resonance. A common
example of mechanical resonance is pushing a swing. A swing is
a sort of pendulum with a natural frequency that is dependent
upon the radius of the pendulum. If a series of regularly spaced
pushes is applied to the swing with a frequency that matches the
natural frequency of the swing, the motion of the swing, as we
know from experience, will be quite large. If the frequency of the
pushes is different from the natural frequency of the swing or the
pushes are irregularly spaced, then the motion of the swing will
not be as large and not as fun [2].
Under certain circumstances, if the frequency of the driving
force is the same as the natural frequency of the object to which
the force is applied, the object could vibrate at amplitude that is
dangerously high. If soldiers march in lockstep over a bridge and
their footsteps have a frequency equal to one of the natural fre-
quencies of the bridge, the bridge may begin to oscillate treach-
erously. This is why soldiers are ordered to march in break step
when crossing a bridge [2].
While the Biblical narrative of Jericho does not indicate how
the men marched around the city, theoretically they may have
marched around the city in lockstep, generating a frequency of
vibration equal to the natural frequency of the walls. Thus, thou-
sands of men marching in lockstep once a day for six days around
the city walls, and seven times on the seventh day may have weak-
ened the wall due to mechanical resonance [1].
Furthermore, the priests continually blew the shofarot as
they marched around the city, once each day for six days. During
The three instructions that g-d listed for
Joshua involve some sort of mechanical
force (thousands of men marching around
the city) and acoustic force (priests
continually blowing the shofarot and
thousands of men yelling in unison).
derech haTeva 57
the seventh circle around the city on the seventh day the priests
blasted the shofarot, and the nation shouted in unison immediately
thereafter. This may have generated acoustic resonance with the
city walls which had already endured a week of mechanical reso-
nance. The acoustic resonance may have caused further vibrations
resulting in the walls falling to the ground. This hypothesis may
seem unlikely, but if you think about it, the destructive conse-
quences of acoustic resonance are not so unfamiliar. If a person
sings at the appropriate pitch such that the frequency of the notes
being sung matches the natural frequency of a glass, the glass will
vibrate and could shatter [1].
Various theories have been proposed to explain how the walls
of Jericho fell down. The wording of the 20
th
pasuk in the 6
th
perek
may provide a clue. “…it came to pass, when the people heard
the sound of the horn that the people shouted with a great shout,
and the wall fell down fat, so that the people went up into the city,
every man straight before him, and they took the city.” According
to one theory, the words, “every man straight before him,” suggest that
not only one section of the wall shattered but that the entire wall
shattered at once, similarly to the manner in which glass shatters
under acoustic resonance [1].
However, this theory, which proposes that the walls shattered
like glass, is not as compelling as an alternative theory which is
supported by other textual clues, as well as archaeological evi-
dence. Evidence gathered from these aforementioned sources,
in fact, suggest that the earth itself vibrated at the time of the
attack on Jericho. When the fate of Jericho ensued, the Biblical
text uses the word “tach’teha” to describe how the walls fell down.
“Tach’teha” literally means “underneath it,” the subject of which
is the city wall. This translation does not suggest that the walls
themselves were breached, but that they sank into the earth as
a result of the ground opening up beneath them. This would
certainly support the earthquake theory. However, modern exca-
vations do not show evidence of the walls having sunk into the
earth, but rather that the walls fell down fat, a hypothesis which
still sides with the earthquake theory. Interestingly, many Biblical
translations actually do interpret “tach’teha” to mean that the walls
fell down fat.
According to diagrams of Jericho designed by archaeolo-
gists, Jericho was fortifed by a retaining wall 12-15 feet high on
top of which stood an outer city wall reaching 20-26 feet above
the retaining wall. Uphill from the outer city wall stood an inner
city wall with similar dimensions. Even after the city walls fell
down, the Israelites still had to climb over the towering retaining
wall. Excavations have revealed that bricks from the fallen walls
fell at the base of the retaining wall forming a ramp on which
the Israelites could climb up and over. In fact, this archaeological
fnding matches the precise description in the Biblical text which
describes how the Israelites entered Jericho: “The people went up
into the city, every man straight before him” [3].
As a result of his excavation in Jericho in 1930-1936, Profes-
sor John Garstang emphasized that the city walls fell outward, such
that the Israelites were able to climb over the retaining wall and up
into Jericho. All archaeological sites of ancient cities in the Middle
East, except for Jericho, revealed that besieged city walls fell in-
ward simply because when invaders besiege a city they are aiming
to get into the city, not out of the city. Interestingly though, Jer-
icho’s walls fell outward [4].
The Israelites did not besiege the city in the normal fashion,
and thus, even had the walls fallen inward, the event would have
been no less a miracle. However, the direction in which the walls
fell was still an obvious convenience to the Israelites in their at-
tack on Jericho. Was it possible for the Israelites to have caused
the walls to fall in this preferred direction using resonance? As-
suming that resonance caused the walls to shatter, it would depend
on the mode of oscillation of the wall being excited by the driving
force. If the walls formed a circular ring, a breathing mode of
oscillation would entail radial expansion and contraction. The wall
could technically break in the expansion part of the cycle or in
the contraction part of the cycle, and thus, the wall could fall out-
ward or inward respectively. However, other modes of oscillation
would not result in the breaking of the wall in any preferred di-
rection, and the wall would randomly fall in either direction. The
sounds of the shofarot used in the attack would have had to have a
frequency value much larger than the frequency of sounds within
the audible range (10Hz-10kHz) since the value of the Young’s
modulus for stone is enormous. (The Young’s modulus is a mea-
sure of how stiff an object is.) Thus, it is very unlikely that the
Israelites would have been able to excite a breathing mode within
the walls, and therefore, could not have made the walls fall in any
preferred direction [5]. On the other hand, archaeology shows
that the walls were made of baked mud [3], which may be weaker
and more brittle than the kind of stone we are familiar with today.
But, assuming that the walls were still too stiff to excite a breath-
ing mode within them, the walls could still have fallen outward
due to chance.
Here is another theory that is simpler and assumes that reso-
nance caused the earth to vibrate. According to diagrams of Jer-
icho that were produced based on archaeological excavations, the
city was built on top of a hill, and the fortifying walls were built
58 derech haTeva
around the city on the hill [3]. If this is indeed the case, then the
location of the center of mass (or the center of gravity, which can
be used synonymously in a uniform gravity feld) would have pre-
dicted that the walls fall outward. The center of mass is the mean
location of the object’s total mass and can be used to explain
how that object will respond to certain forces and torques [6]. If
an inclined surface beneath a standing object were to shake, the
object would fall in the direction in which gravity exerts the most
force. On Earth, gravity would exert the most force on the side
of the object where the center of mass lies. Likewise, the walls of
Jericho, which stood on a vibrating inclined plane, fell outward
because their centers of mass experienced the force of gravity
most powerfully in the “outward direction.”
Actually, excavations show evidence of earthquake activity at
the time of the attack on Jericho. However, is it physically pos-
sible that the Israelites used resonance to induce an earthquake?
According to the work performed by Nikola Tesla, a great Aus-
trian inventor who lived in the 19
th
and 20
th
centuries, resonance
can indeed cause vibrations in the earth like those from the effect
of an earthquake. Tesla was prone to conjuring up very strange
ideas, one of which materialized into an invention called the “Te-
sla Oscillator,” also known as the “Earthquake Machine.” Tesla
performed his frst experiments with resonance technology in his
New York laboratory where he excited his little oscillating device
causing vibrations in Manhattan for miles around his laboratory
[7]. It follows, Tesla claimed, that by fnding the most suitable fre-
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
Dr. Babich, I am grateful that you introduced me to Derech Hateva two years ago when I was a freshman. Each year since then I have looked forward to
submitting a paper for this journal. I also thank you and this year’s journal editors for the time you took to carefully review this paper. Dr. Santos and Dr.
Frenkel, I appreciate your patience and the valuable feedback you gave me on the questions I had about physics. Thank you, Rabbi A. Cohen, for kindly
reviewing the Torah content of this paper. Max, thank you for helping me select this intriguing topic. And fnally, Mom and Dad, my sincerest thanks go to
you for sending me to Stern College where I can achieve my intellectual and academic pursuits.
referenceS
[1] Squido. http://www.squidoo.com/walls-of-jericho (retrieved January 12, 2011).
[2] Sears, F.W., Zemansky, M.W., Young, H.D. (1974). College Physics, 4th edition. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, MA.
[3] Answers in Genesis. http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v21/i2/jericho.asp# (retrieved January 12, 2011).
[4] Bible Study Manuals. http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/jericho.htm (retrieved January 13, 2011).
[5] A. Frenkel (personal communication, January 18, 2011)
[6] HyperPhysics. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/cm.html (retrieved January 21, 2011).
[7] “Tesla’s Earthquake Machine.” Online video clip. YouTube (retrieved January 22, 2011).
[8] Angelfre. http://www.angelfre.com/scif/EclipseLab/Tesla/Oscillator.html (retrieved January 21, 2011).
quency, any structure can be destroyed. Tesla once even “joked”
that he could crack the earth using his device [8].
Tesla’s experiment also showed that resonance waves become
stronger the more distant they are from their source [7]. This ex-
plains how the Israelites were able to produce strong resonance
effects while still maintaining a safe distance from the city walls so
as not to be in danger when the walls would fall down. However,
we should be careful not to place too much emphasis on the hy-
pothesis regarding resonance as the cause of an earthquake at the
time of the attack. It is mere speculation, but nonetheless, it raises
an interesting topic for discussion.
Still, archaeological evidence and physical probabilities in
addition to the Biblical text, suggest that resonance might have
somehow played a role in the attack on Jericho. If the walls of
Jericho indeed fell due to resonance, was the event any less of a
miracle? Absolutely not – the probability of thousands of men
walking in lockstep together and at the same frequency as one
of the natural frequencies of vibration of the earth or the city
walls (depending on which hypothesis you accept) is quite small.
Furthermore, the event of all the priests blowing the shofarot and
the thousands of men yelling at the same frequency as one of the
natural frequencies of vibration of the earth or the walls is also a
small probability occurrence. Thus, even had the walls fallen due
to resonance, the event is no less a miracle. And, although the
event is considered a miracle, it does not necessarily follow that it
occurred contrarily to the laws of nature.
g
derech haTeva 59
Mal ki Si l verman
T h e P o M e g r A n A T e : b e A u T y A n d h e A l T h i n
A n c i e n T A n d M o d e r n T i M e S
he ancient fruit Punica granatum, better known as the
pomegranate, is thought to have frst been cultivated in
the Middle-East nearly 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists
have been able to place its origin in southwestern Asia,
3000-2000 BCE, where fragments of pomegranate have been
recovered in the caves of the Judean Deserts and in the wadis
near Ein Gedi [1].
Throughout the Biblical period (1200-445 BCE), the pome-
granate was seen as symbol of the Hebrews. This comes to no
surprise since the pomegranate appears as a representative sign
for many important aspects throughout our Tanach and Talmud.
According to Rabbinic tradition, the pomegranate has exactly
613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot. Although not every
pomegranate has 613 seeds as the tradition connotes, in many
cultures, the pomegranate has long been seen as a symbol of fer-
tility, due to its large number of seeds [2]. Throughout Tanach,
the pomegranate is seen as a special fruit, symbolizing health and
beauty. Pomegranates were placed as decorations on the clothes
of the Kohanim (Exodus 39:24-26) and as ornaments for the pil-
lars of the Beis Hamikdash (Kings I 7:18). The pomegranate was
among the fruits that the spies brought back from Israel (Num-
bers 13:23), symbolizing the greatness of the land. In Song of
Songs (6:7), the pomegranate is an icon of beauty as it is written,
“As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples…” Pomegranates
are also among the fruits liable for the agricultural mitzvot of Peah
(Mishna Peah 1:5) and Ma’aser, (Mishna Maasarot 1:2) as well as Orla
and Shmita (Mishna Shvi’it 7:3) [1]. Most importantly, in Deuter-
onomy (8:8), the pomegranate is listed as one of the Sheva Minim.
This designation seems to have been given because of its beauty,
since the pomegranate was not an integral part of people’s diet at
the time like the other six species.
With its status as one of the Sheva Minim, the pomegran-
ate is inherently distinctive. Pomegranates can be brought to the
temple as one of the frst fruit offerings, and eating a pomegran-
ate requires the special bracha achrona of Me’ein Shalosh. However,
the pomegranate has additional attributes which contribute to its
uniqueness. Already in Ancient Egyptian times, pomegranates
were thought to have medical health benefts. The rind of the fruit
was used as a remedy for tapeworm and other intestinal illnesses
[1], and the peels were commonly used to form dyes. This method
was utilized by our ancestors as well, as evidenced in Mishna Shab-
bat (9:5), “pomegranate peels… enough to dye with them a small
garment in a headdress.” The pomegranate is an integral part of
Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional form of Indian medicine, where
it is used for stomach illnesses as well as a treatment for leprosy
[3]. Although it has been traditionally recognized, with the avail-
ability of new technology and experiments, scientists have only
recently been able to unlock the pomegranate’s true medical po-
tential.
Pomegranates contain many different chemical compounds
such as aldehydes, linear-hydrocarbons, and alcohols, which give
the pomegranate numerous health benefts [2]. It has been dis-
covered that pomegranates, due to their high content of polyphe-
nols, have high antioxidant activity, a factor which can reduce the
risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Phenols are organic
compounds containing a six-membered aromatic ring, directly
connected to a hydroxyl group (-OH). Polyphenols are therefore
capable of antioxidant activity because of their ability to lose the
hydrogens of their hydroxyl groups, thereby becoming oxidized
and acting as reducing agents. This property allows the polyphe-
nols to neutralize free radicals produced during mitochondrial
oxidation reactions, thus protecting cells from a high free-radical
content that has been associated with cancer. The most common
polyphenols found in pomegranates are anthocyanins, catechins,
ellagic tannins, and gallic/ellagic acids [2]. The antioxidant behav-
ior of pomegranates is mostly due to the high content of hydro-
lysable tannins. Punicic acid, the main constituent of the pome-
granate seed, has the ability to induce apoptosis and inhibit cell
growth in cancer cells [4]. Pomegranate juice has also been shown
to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis [5].
T
It is interesting that one of the frst fruits
to be examined for these unique health
benefts is also one of our Sheva Minim.
60 derech haTeva
Recent in vitro studies administering pomegranate extract at
different concentrations to normal and cancerous cells have shown
additional chemical activity of the pomegranate, namely its ability
to also act as a prooxidant. The antiproliferative mechanisms of
pomegranate extract to cancer cells is additionally caused by the
induction of oxidative stress through the generation of hydrogen
peroxide. This behavior marks pomegranate extract as an impor-
tant prooxidant as well as an antioxidant, in regards to its actions
towards cancer cells [6]. A unique aspect of the prooxidant be-
havior of pomegranate extract is that it preferentially targets and
kills the cancer cells. Cancer cells, because of their defcient an-
tioxidant defense systems, are hypersensitive to oxidative stress,
whereas normal healthy cells, with their fne-tuned antioxidant
defense systems are left unharmed. Apparently, the pomegranate
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
I would like to frstly thank Dr. Babich for his help with my research and writing of this article, and for always pushing me in the right direction. Without
his continuous guidance and assistance in all my endeavors, my years in Stern would not have been the same. I would also like to thank my parents for their
never-ending support and motivation throughout all of my education.
referenceS
[1] Goor, A. and M. Nurock. (1968). The Pomegranate (chapter 3), The Fruits of the Holy Land. Jerusalem: Israel Universities.
[2] Calín-Sánchez, A., Martínez, J.J., Vázquez-Araújo, L., Burló. F., Melgarejo, P., and Carbonell-Barrachina, A.A. (2011). Volatile composition and sensory
quality of Spanish Pomeranates (Pucina granatum L.) J. Sci. Food Agric. 93: 586-592.
[3] Jindal, K. K. and R. C. Sharma. (2004). Recent Trends in Horticulture in the Himalayas: Integrated Development under the Mission Mode. New Delhi:
Indus Pub.
[4] Gasmi, J., and Sanderson, J.T. (2010). Growth inhibitory, antiandrogenic, and pro-apoptic effects of punicic acid in LNCaP human prostate cancer cells.
J. Agric. Food Chem Nov. 10 [Epub ahead of print].
[5] de Nigris, F., Williams-Ignarro, S., Lerman. L.O., Crimi, E., Botti, C., Mansueto, G., D’Armiento, F.P., De Rosa. G., Sica, V., Ignarro, L.J., and Napoli, C.
(2005) Benefcial effects of pomegranate juice on oxidation-sensitive genes and endotelial nitric oxide synthase activity at sites of perurbed shear stress.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 102:4896-4901.
[6] Weisburg, J.H., Schuck, A.G., Silverman, M,S,, Ovits-Levy, C.G., Solodokin, L.J,, Zuckerbraun, H.L., and Babich, H. (2010). Pomegranate extract, a
prooxidant with antiproliferative and proapoptotic activities preferentially towards carcinoma cells. Anticancer Agts. Med. Chem. 10: 634-644.
is an exceptional nutraceutical, a food that is nutritious and can
be used medicinally.
The chemicals found in pomegranates responsible for the
medical processes mentioned above can also be found in green
and black teas, as well as other types of plant-derived foods. Stud-
ies of nutraceuticals provide are an extremely interesting and
potentially inexpensive way of preventing harmful diseases. It is
interesting that one of the frst fruits to be examined for these
unique health benefts is also one of our Sheva Minim. Although
we, as Jews, pray to G-d for refuah, we still understand the im-
portance of putting in our own hishtadlut, our own efforts. The
secrets of the pomegranate demonstrate that the Torah is an ex-
cellent frst step in our research.
g
derech haTeva 61
rose Snyder
h A l A K h i c h e A d A c h e S : h o W M u c h A f f l i c T i o n i S
T o o M u c h ?
s scientifc and technological developments continue to
be made, many people argue that the expanded power
of scientists may cause them to “play G-d” as they
manipulate natural processes. G-d commanded the
Jews to fast on the holiest day of the year. Yom Kippur, which
literally means Day of Atonement, is the day on which G-d forgives
the individual for her past sins and seals her fate for the coming
year. Those who repent will be forgiven, so the day is spent in
prayer and is the most widely practiced fast day in Judaism. The
commandment to fast on this day is noted in Scripture: “On the
tenth day of this month it is the Day of Atonement; there shall
be a holy convocation for you, and you shall affict your souls”
(Leviticus 23:27). The underlying principle of afficting the soul
is that avoiding physical pleasures - including eating and drinking
- will help the individual focus instead on her spiritual state and
reach inner purifcation [1]. A common side effect of this 25-
hour fast is development of a headache which has been shown
to occur in 40% of Jews observing the fast. Although the exact
physiological basis for this type of headache is unknown, possible
causes and treatments have been studied and tested. Many Rabbis
have agreed that studying the physiological effects of 25-hour
fasts with the intention of testing and developing methods for
relieving excessive discomfort does not interfere with the Divine
commandment to “affict your souls” [2]. Instead it will enable
fasters to better concentrate on repenting and encourage more
people to undertake the fast.
Developing effective methods for preventing this type of
headache - commonly called the Yom Kippur headache - must
follow an understanding of the physiological basis for the head-
ache. A fasting headache has been identifed as a secondary head-
ache, one which is caused by an underlying condition, and is
attributed to a disorder of homeostasis. The patient must have
fasted for more than 16 hours, develop it during fasting, and it
must be resolved within 72 hours after food consumption. It must
also have at least one of the following characteristics: frontal lo-
cation, diffuse pain, nonpulsating quality, and mild or moderate
intensity. The Yom Kippur headache was frst identifed as a fast-
ing headache in the 1994 study by Mosek et al. who studied the
prevalence of headache on 211 subjects who observed the Yom
Kippur fast. The headaches of the subjects were characterized by
the same features that characterize fasting headaches. Mosek et al.
also found that subjects with a history of headache are more likely
to develop the Yom Kippur headache and that the frequency of
headache attacks increases with the duration of the fast [3].
Later studies by the same and other scientists have helped
elucidate the basis for the Yom Kippur headache, although much
remains to be understood. In 1999 Mosek et al. investigated dehy-
dration as a possible cause for the Yom Kippur headache. Because
weight loss during the fast is mainly a result of dehydration, they
were able to compare the average weight loss of their subjects
and the prevalence of headache. However, the fndings found
no correlation between weight loss and headache and therefore
ruled out dehydration as a cause for the Yom Kippur headache
[4]. Interestingly, also in 1999 Awada et al. studied headache dur-
ing the frst day of Ramadan. The clinical features of the frst-of-
Ramadan headache (FRH) were found to be similar to those of
the Yom Kippur headache. The observation that the frequency of
headache increased with the duration of the fast and that those
with a past history of headache were more likely to develop fast-
ing headache confrmed the fndings of Mosek et al. However,
some of their fndings differed signifcantly. Awada et al. found
that water intake led to the disappearance of headache in some of
their subjects, which showed a correlation between dehydration
and headache. They also found that tea or coffee consumption re-
solved the headache in over half of the subjects, whereas Mosek
et al. had found no correlation between coffee/tea consumption
and headache [3].
A
Therefore, to maximize the amount of
glycogen stored in the muscles, many
recommend loading up on carbohydrates a
few days before yom Kippur. This is similar
to what runners do before a marathon.
62 derech haTeva
Based on these fndings, possible mechanisms and treatments
for the Yom Kippur headache have been proposed. A common
cause for migraine-like symptoms - including headache - is caf-
feine withdrawal. Fasting has therefore been identifed as a pos-
sible cause for the caffeine-withdrawal headache. This correlation
was demonstrated by Nikolajsen, who found that patients who
consumed more than 400 mg/day of caffeine were more likely
to develop headache during preoperative fasting [3]. While these
fndings support those of Awada et al., they are not supported by
the fndings of Mosek et al., who found no correlation between
coffee/tea consumption and the prevalence of the Yom Kippur
headache. Despite this discrepancy, many people suggest cutting
down on the amount of caffeinated beverages consumed the
week before the fast [5].
Another attempt to relieve the discomfort of the Yom Kip-
pur headache employed an anti-infammatory pain-relief drug.
Rofecoxib (also known as Vioxx®) inhibits Cox-2, an enzyme
that causes pain and infammation, and it has a long plasma
half-life, allowing for continued drug activity. In a 2004 study,
Drescher et al. investigated the effects of Rofecoxib on the Yom
Kippur headache and found that only 18.9% of subjects who re-
ceived the drug reported a headache at some point during the fast,
while 65.4% of the subjects who received the placebo reported
a headache [2]. However, also in 2004 Vioxx was taken off the
market because its long-term, high-dosage use was reported to
cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke [6]. Drescher
conducted a similar study on the 2008 Yom Kippur. This time
he used etoricoxib, which also has a long plasma half-life and has
pharmacological properties similar to rofecoxib. Again, he found
a decreased rate of headache in the group that received the drug
and concluded that the drug effectively decreases the likelihood
of developing the Yom Kippur headache [7].
While studying the causes and treatments for the Yom Kip-
pur headache helps relieve excessive discomfort, another ap-
proach to relieving unnecessary pain comes from studying the
dietary composition of the pre-fast meal and its effects on fasters.
Blondheim et al. investigated this correlation in a study where dif-
ferent pre-fast meals were given to the test subjects. While the
meals were equicaloric and contained equal amounts of sodium
and water, they differed in their main source of calories - fats,
carbohydrates, or protein. Each subject was tested with each of
the pre-fast meals. They were evaluated by their degree of hunger
and thirst throughout the fast, as well as their subjective discom-
fort during each experimental fast as compared to the discomfort
usually experienced during religious fasts. The subjects reported
signifcantly higher levels of discomfort after the protein-rich
pre-fast meal than after the carbohydrate-rich and fat-rich meals.
Additionally, there tended to be higher rates of thirst after the
protein-rich meal. Based on their fndings, Blondheim et al con-
cluded that a protein-poor pre-fast meal is likely to bring easier
fasting [8].
Some nutritionists also recommend eating increased amounts
of carbohydrates for a few days before Yom Kippur [9]. On a
normal day, the human body relies on the ingested carbohydrates
to fuel its metabolic activities, especially brain metabolism [3].
However, on a fast day the body must rely on the glucose stored
in the liver, in the form of glycogen, as its source for energy.
While liver glycogen provides about three quarters of the neces-
sary glucose, the remainder is from the additional glycogen stored
in the muscles. Therefore, to maximize the amount of glycogen
stored in the muscles, many recommend loading up on carbo-
hydrates a few days before Yom Kippur. This is similar to what
runners do before a marathon [9].
Interestingly, glucose levels might also be related to the Yom
Kippur headache. In addition to caffeine withdrawal, another pro-
posed mechanism for the Yom Kippur headache is hypoglycemia.
Reduced blood glucose levels are generally thought to trigger or
worsen migraine attacks. However, other scientifc evidence does
not support this hypothesis. For example, studies have shown
that insulin-induced hypoglycemia does not cause headache at-
tacks in migraineurs. The exact physiological cause for the Yom
Kippur headache is unclear. Scientists suggest that the psycho-
logical strain of fasting and change in daily habits might cause
a headache attack, especially in predisposed individuals [3]. One
can imagine that the stress of Yom Kippur, when man stands in
judgment before G-d, would especially contribute to this psycho-
logical strain.
Scientifc investigation and experimentation have led to a
deeper understanding of the Yom Kippur headache and of the
dietary regulations that could help alleviate excessive discomfort
on Yom Kippur. Although the underlying cause for the Yom Kip-
pur headache is still unclear, the study conducted by Drescher et
al. in 2008 demonstrated that etoricoxib decreased the prevalence
of Yom Kippur headache. They received approval from Rabbis to
conduct the study because the drug treatment does not interfere
with the commandment “to affict your souls.” While the drug
might alleviate headache pain, it does not remove all effects of
hunger and the faster will still experience the affiction that is de-
scribed in Scripture [6]. While there seems to be no halakhic issue
with developing such treatments, some individuals have expressed
derech haTeva 63
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
Thank you to my parents for supporting my education and always encouraging me to accomplish my goals. A huge thank you also goes to Dr. Babich for
helping me with the topic of this paper and providing me with sources.
referenceS
[1] Berner, Y.N. (2001). Fasting, food composition, health and belief, Isr. Med. Assoc. J., 3: 667-668.
[2] Drescher, Michael J. and Elstein, Yonatan. (2006). Prophylactic Cox 2 inhibitor: An end to the Yom Kippur headache, Headache, 46: 1487-1491.
[3] Torelli, P., Evangelista, A., Bini, A., Castellini, P., Lambru, G., and Manzoni, G.C. (2009). Fasting headache: A review of the literature and new hypotheses,
Headache, 49: 744-752.
[4] Mosek, A. and Korczyn, A.D. (1999). Fasting headache, weight loss, and dehydration, Headache 39: 225-227.
[5] Siegel-Itzkovich, J. (2003, October 4). Less caffeine, more water before the Fast, Jerusalem Post. www.jpost.com
[6] Siegel-Itskovich, J. (2008, October 6). Test drug taken before Fast could be answer to preventing Yom Kippur headaches, Jerusalem Post. www.jpost.
com
[7] Drescher, M.J., Alpert, E.A., Zalut, T., Torgovicky, R., and Wimpfheimer, Z. (2010). Prophylactic etoricoxib is effective in preventing Yom Kippur head-
ache: A placebo-controlled double-blind and randomized trial of prophylaxis for ritual fasting headache, Headache 50: 1328-1334.
[8] Blondheim, D.S., Blondheim, O, and Blonheim, S.H. (2001) The dietary composition of pre-fast meals and its effects on 24 hour food and water fasting,
Isr. Med. Assoc. J., 3: 657-662.
[9] Isenberg, S. (2008) A few fasting fxes, Jewish Action, 69: 70-71. .
[10] Soloveitchik, Joseph B. (2006). Kol Dodi Dofek- Listen My beloved Knocks. Yeshiva University, New York, NY.
the sentiment that trying to manipulate the dietary composition
of the pre-fast meal to make the fast easier contradicts the spiri-
tual goal of Yom Kippur - to use affiction to reach inner purif-
cation [1]. They might feel that using scientifc experimentation
to manipulate the natural effects of fasting resembles the idea of
“playing G-d.” However, most people believe that relieving exces-
sive discomfort is justifed because it allows the faster to better
concentrate on repenting for past sins. Rav Soloveitchik, in many
of his writings, emphasized the creative power of man: “When
G-d bestows wealth, property, infuence, and honor, the recipient
must know… how to turn these precious gifts into fruitful, cre-
ative powers” [10]. By using the developments of modern science
to better understand the physiological effects of fasting, man -
rather than “playing G-d”- uses his creative powers to enhance
his service of G-d.
g
64 derech haTeva
hel en Ayal a unger
M A ’ A S e h A v o T S i M A n l ’ b A n i M : S P i r i T u A l A n d
b i o l o g i c A l P A r A l l e l S
he idea that people’s actions create a paradigm for
their offspring’s lives is a popular concept in rabbinic
writings. This concept, called maaseh avot siman l’banim
(the deeds of the fathers are a sign for their children),
manifests itself in several places in the Torah, stressing that the
actions and spiritual nature of the Biblical forefathers have paved
a path for Jews in later generations. This theory originated with
Chazal and is referenced by many central Torah commentators.
For example, Nachmanides, a 13
th
-century commentator from
Spain, cited Abraham’s journey from the land of Israel to Egypt
as a precedent for his children’s later exile to Egypt; in addition,
he noted that Abraham left Egypt laden with gifts, as did the
Children of Israel when they were freed from their Egyptian
bondage [1]. The Ruach Chaim, another commentator, noted that
in the fourth mishnah of the ffth chapter of Pirkei Avot, which
describes ten tests that Abraham passed during his lifetime, the
phrase “Avraham Avinu” (Abraham our father) is emphasized
because Abraham’s ability to overcome challenges was instilled in
his offspring’s spiritual DNA for generations [2].
Chazal clearly state that the deeds of our ancestors—their
acts of kindness and dynamic decisions—have impacted the lives
of their offspring and created a paradigm for Jewish history. The
burgeoning feld of epigenetics provides biological evidence that
the actions and habits of ancestors impact their descendents in
surprising and sometimes alarming ways. Epigenetics, a feld of
biology which studies alterations in gene expression unrelated to
the DNA sequence, has identifed several phenomena that can
lead to either increased or decreased gene expression in individu-
als. One such phenomenon is DNA methylation, in which a meth-
yl group attaches to either the 5-position cytosine pyrimidine ring
or the 6-position adenine purine ring in DNA by way of DNA
methyltransferase [3]. This commonly occurs during gametogen-
esis in humans, during which genomic imprinting takes place.
Methylated DNA becomes hypercondensed and thus unable to
be transcribed; in women, for example, the Prader-Willi gene is
imprinted by methylation and becomes nonfunctional, allowing
for monoallelic paternal expression. Studies have demonstrated
that cancers, such as prostate carcinomas, can be caused by ab-
errant hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes and DNA
repair genes, causing the affected cells to become tumorigenic
[4]. DNA methylation is the most common form of epigenetic
regulation, and is currently the subject of cutting-edge biological
research.
Another common epigenetic phenomenon is histone acety-
lation, in which an acetyl functional group is added to the N-
terminus of the histone proteins that allow DNA to condense
into chromatin. Normally, histone complexes have a positive net
charge, allowing them to associate with negatively-charged DNA
molecules. The addition of the acetyl group neutralizes that posi-
tive charge, causing the DNA to loosen from the histone com-
plex; in the end, this allows the DNA to be transcribed. Acetyla-
tion is also associated with genetic alterations related to cancer. A
1997 study showed that the expression of the tumor suppressor
gene p53 could be regulated by histone acetylation both in vitro
and in vivo [5]. Additional studies have demonstrated that DNA
methylation and histone acetylation may work cooperatively, and
evidence that the two phenomena infuence each other in living
cells is accumulating [6].
Modern research indicates that the epigenetic regulation of
genes in individuals can be infuenced by the actions of their par-
ents, both before conception and during pregnancy. A study done
in 2000 showed that after altering the diet of female agouti mice
(which carry a dominant gene providing susceptibility to obesity,
diabetes, and cancer), their offspring developed into normal-
weighted and healthy mice. The mother mice were fed a diet rich
in methyl donors; thus, the production of normal offspring has
been attributed to the methlyation of the agouti gene during em-
T
Just as our forefathers strove to become
spiritual giants, we must put forth great
effort towards maintaining our health, for
it has become clear that our actions do not
merely impact us personally.
derech haTeva 65
bryonic development [7,8]. Another study found that when mice
with genetically-induced memory defciency were allowed to live
in an environment flled with exercise, attention, and other men-
tal stimulants, they produced offspring who—while carrying the
deleterious gene—showed great improvement in their long-term
memory function, even when raised in environments without ex-
tra attention [8].
In humans, it has been found in numerous studies that wom-
en who are pregnant when stress levels are high, such as during
wartime or disease epidemics, have a greater chance of producing
children affected by schizophrenia than women pregnant during
peaceful times [9-11]. It is thought that the cause behind this trend
is an epigenetic alteration impairing proper neural development
[9]. In addition, the methylation of genes involved in immune
system development has been identifed as a cause of asthma
and allergies; this hypermethylation is brought on in utero by en-
vironmental factors, such as cigarette smoke and dietary nutrient
supply [12, 13]. It has also been found that low dietary levels of
folic acid, methionine, and choline can promote aberrant genome
methylation patterns at all stages in life, but is most damaging
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
First, I would like to thank my parents for their continuous support of my academic and Judaic growth. I thank Dr. Babich for all that he does for the stu-
dent body of Stern College and his review of the scientifc content of this article. I would also like to thank Rabbi Yehuda Willig of Yeshiva University for
reviewing the Torah content of this article.
during fetal development. The effect of diet upon the epigenome
manifests itself mainly in the promotion of cancers, such as those
of the stomach, head, and neck. [14]. It is clear that the choices
that parents make have a tangible impact upon the health and
well-being of their children.
Ultimately, of what signifcance are these fndings to the av-
erage person? They serve, mainly, to emphasize the importance
of living a healthy lifestyle and ensuring one’s well-being by eating
a balanced diet and avoiding toxins such as cigarette smoke and
polluted air. These studies are particularly vital for women who are
pregnant or plan to become pregnant, since it has been found that
many epigenetic events take place during fetal development and
are caused by the mother’s choices. Current research has revealed
an intriguing biological parallel to Chazal’s spiritual concept. Thus,
just as our forefathers strove to become spiritual giants, we must
put forth great effort towards maintaining our health, for it has
become clear that our actions do not merely impact us personally.
Just as Abraham set the tone for his children when he went down
to Egypt, we too set the tone for the health of generations to
come by the choices we make today.
g
referenceS
[1] Nachmanides, commentary on Sefer Bereshit (Genesis) 12:6.
[2] Ruach Chaim, commentary on Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) 5:4
[3] Jaenisch, R. and Bird, A. (2003). Epigenetic regulation of gene expression: how the genome integrates intrinsic and environmental signals. Nature Genet-
ics. 33:245-254.
[4] Li, L., Carroll, P. and Dahiya, R. (2005). Epigenetic changes in prostate cancer: implication for diagnosis and treatment. JNCI. 97:103-115.
[5] Gu, W., and Roeder, R. (1997). Activation of p53 sequence-specifc DNA binding by acetylation of the p53 C-terminal domain. Cell. 90:595-606.
[6] Dobosy, J. and Selker, E. (2001). Emerging connections between DNA methylation and histone acetylation. Cell. Mol. Life Sci.. 58:721-727.
[7] Watters, E., (2006). DNA is not destiny. Discover. (published online November 22 2006). http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover
[8] Cloud, J. (2010). “Why your DNA isn’t your destiny.” Time. (published online January 6 2010). http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1951968,00.
html
[9] Fox, M. “Stress of war may help to cause schizophrenia.” Reuters. August 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2127851720080821
[10] van Os, J. and Selten, J. (1998). Prenatal exposure to maternal stress and subsequent schizophrenia: The May 1940 invasion of The Netherlands. Brit. J.
Psych. 172:324-326.
[11] Mednick, S. et al. (1988). Adult schizophrenia following prenatal exposure to an infuenzia epidemic. Arch. Gen. Psych. 45:189-192.
[12] Miller, R. and Ho, S. (2008). Environmental epigenetics and asthma. Amer. J. Resp. Crit. Care Med. 177:567-573.
[13] Prescott, S. and Clifton, V. (2009). Asthma and pregnancy: emerging evidence of epigenetic infuence in utero. Curr. Opin. Allergy Clin. Immunol.
i9:417-426.
[14] Eating for your epigenome. Epigenetics. (retrieved 23 January 2011). http://epigenome.eu/en/2,48,875
66 derech haTeva
h. babi ch, Ph.d. bi ol ogy department, ScW
P l A g u e S 4 T o 6 : W i l d A n i M A l S , P e S T i l E n c e ,
A n d b o i l S
he Ibn Ezra (Shemos 9:1) noted that the plagues of
blood and frogs were mediated through the medium of
water, of lice and wild animals through the medium of
soil, and of pestilence and boils through the medium
of the atmosphere. Plagues 4, 5, and 6, or, those affictions caused
by swarms of wild animals, microbial pestilence, and skin boils,
are the subjects of this article.
Plague #4
“HaShem said to Moshe: Arise early in the morning and sta-
tion yourself before Pharaoh - behold, he goes out to the water
- and you shall say to him, So said HaShem: Send out My people
that they may serve Me. For if you do not send out My people,
behold, I shall incite against you, your servants, your people, and
your houses, the swarm of wild animals; and the houses of Egypt
shall be flled with the swarm, even the ground upon which they
are” (Shemos 8:16, 17). A disordered assortment (Rashi) of roving
(Ramban) animals, from the wilderness [1], invaded Egypt. Some
of the species of animals were foreign to Egyptian soil (Haamek
Davar) and fear of these unfamiliar creatures terrifed the Egyp-
tians. Undoubtedly, this assortment of animals included many
species that, among themselves, were predator-prey associations,
e.g., wild goats and lions. Yet, these species intermingled in har-
mony, without the stronger species (the predators) attacking the
weaker species (the prey) [2]. Rav Avigdor Miller [3] connected
this plague to the prior plagues of blood and lice. “Packs of rabid
animals descended upon the towns, probably maddened by the
foul water of the frst plague and the harassment caused by the
lice and ticks of the third plague.”
Peoples in the lands surrounding Egypt stood dumbfounded
as hordes of wild animals stampeded from their natural environs
towards Egypt. There is a thought that HaShem put out a world-
wide call, commanding animals throughout the world to stam-
pede towards Egypt [2, 4, 5]. If so, Eskimos may have stood in
awe and in utter confusion as they watched polar bears dive into
the frigid waters and swim towards Egypt.
Many commentators suggested that HaShem changed the in-
herent nature of these animals, causing them to uncharacteristi-
cally leave their natural forests, jungles, plains, and deserts and to
invade areas populated by human beings. The mixture of wild
animals was not a new creation; the novelty of this plague was
that the animals, normally denizens of forests and jungles, now
invaded man’s habitat, something that was very untypical of their
behaviors (Rabbeinu Bachya).
Since the time of Noach, HaShem implanted into the psyche
of wild animals a degree of timidity towards human beings. Dur-
ing the year aboard the ark, Noach and his sons catered both day
and night to the physical needs of the various species of animals.
The animals, now accustomed to human beings, no longer feared
them [6]. To assure the safety of Noach and his family upon their
leaving the ark, HaShem said, “The fear of you and the dread of
you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird
of the heavens, in everything that moves on earth and in all the
fsh of the sea; in your hand they are given” (Bereshis 9:2). HaShem
implanted in animals an instinctive fear or “wariness” of human
beings (Abarbanal). Animal “wariness” describes their cautious-
ness and watchfulness of human beings; always on the alert to
avoid risk. Animal wariness is their response to being preyed upon
by hunters and to depletion of their natural habitats by human ac-
tivities. Essentially, it is their inherent protective measure against
annihilation. In the plague of wild animals, HaShem removed the
instinct of wariness, thereby providing the animals with the cour-
age to freely attack and harm human beings (Alshich; Rashi) [1].
A logical assumption is that upon seeing the swarms of in-
vading wild animals the Egyptians quickly bolted the doors and
closed the windows of their homes. If so, how did the wild ani-
mals gain entry into the Egyptian homes? This question appar-
ently bothered various commentators. One thought is that huge
aquatic creatures emerged from the ocean depths, entered Egypt,
crawled over the Egyptian houses and, using their massively long
T
in the plague of wild animals, haShem
removed the instinct of wariness, thereby
providing the animals with the courage to
freely attack and harm human beings.
derech haTeva 67
arms, tore off the roofs, doors, and windows (Sefer HaYashar).
Note, in the Hebrew edition of Me’Am Loez the term for this
aquatic creature is “silonis,” which, in the English edition translat-
ed by Rav Aryeh Kaplan [5], was described as a giant octopus or
a giant squid. Until recently, the existence of these creatures was
known only from their large tentacles that occasionally washed
upon shore or from dead specimens caught by commercial fsh-
ing boats. However, in 2004, Japanese scientists photographed the
frst images of a live large squid (Architeuthis), roughly 25 feet in
length, at a depth of 2,950 feet beneath the north Pacifc Ocean.
These large creatures were found to be active predators, with
sperm whales as their diet [7]. Giant octopuses have also been
identifed in the Pacifc Ocean. The world’s record giant octo-
pus (Enteroctopus dolfeini) weighed live at 156.5 lb, with a length of
23 feet [8]. Another thought was that HaShem agitated the ocean
currents, igniting giant waves to smash against the doors of the
Egyptian houses, thereby opening the houses for entry by the
wild animals [2]. The tsunami of 2004, in which >300,000 people
perished, exemplifes the force of ocean waves.
Other commentators focused on the end of the pasuk 17,
“even the ground upon which they are.” Ibn Ezra suggested that
“ground” included “deserts,” as swarms of animals invaded both
the inhabited and uninhabited areas of Egypt. Others (S’forno;
HaKetav Vehakabbalah) suggested that “ground” referred to bur-
rowing animals, e.g., amphibians, reptiles, snakes, insects, spiders,
and worms, which invaded the Egyptian homes by burrowing
through the soil. Even in their locked houses, the Egyptians felt
insecure.
Another thought is that “even the ground upon which they
are” referred to a specifc creature, the adnei hasadeh. There are
four distinct suggestions to identity the adnei hasadeh: (1) a crea-
ture intimately attached to the ground (G’ra in Kol Eliahu; Tosfos
B’racha); (2) a human; (3) a humanoid; or (4) a primate. The adnei
hasadeh is introduced in Kilayim (8:5), when discussing whether
touching a corpse of the adnei hasadeh confers the same impurity
as touching a human corpse. According to Rav, the adnei hasadeh
is a ferocious animal, human-like in appearance, attached to the
ground by a (“an umbilical?”) cord, through which it obtains its
sustenance from the soil. Hence, for this creature to migrate to
Egypt, the connecting cord and ground must accompany it. The
Artscroll edition of Kilayim expanded the discussion on the adnei
hasadeh noting that its movements were limited to the radius of the
cord, that it was extremely dangerous and killed anything within
its circle of movement, and that its life depended on the cord’s
connection remaining intact to the ground. To kill this creature,
hunters would stand outside the creature’s radius of movement
and shoot at the cord, which upon being severed, the adnei hasadeh
emitted a loud groan and died.
The other suggestions of the identity of the adnei hasadeh
eliminate its cord attachment to the ground. In the Mishnah cited
above, Rav Yosi assumed that the adnei hasadeh had the status of
a human being. The Talmud Yerushalmi, Kilayim (8:4) described
the adnei hasadeh as a “mountain man.” Aruch considered the ad-
nei hasadeh either as a feral human who grew up in the jungle or
as a species of wild human. Rav Shimon Schwab [9] considered
the adnei hasadeh to be “man-like creatures with some intelligence
who were able to cultivate felds, hence their name.” He further
explained that they were “most likely identical with the so-called
“prehistoric men” which in spite of their similarity to men, were
not created in the image of G-d and not endowed with a Divine
soul. Nevertheless, they were capable of cultivating the soil, build-
ing settlements, fashioning all kinds of artifacts, and even drawing
pictures inside the caves where they lived.” Other identities of the
adnei hasadeh included those of various primates (Rav Phinchus
Kahati; Malbim and Sifra on Vayikra 11:27), including the orang-
utan (Tifereth Yisroel (see Boaz)) and the chimpanzee (Rambam in
Perush HaMishnayos to Kilayim 8:5, specifying a primate that chat-
tered incessantly without interruption).
HaShem continued the narrative: “And on that day I shall
set apart the land of Goshen upon which My people stand, that
there shall be no swarm there; so that you will know that I am
HaShem in the midst of the land. I shall make a distinction be-
tween My people and your people - tomorrow this sign will come
about” (Shemos 8:18, 19). For the prior two plagues, frogs and lice,
no specifc mention was made to distinguish between Goshen
and Egyptian land. Several commentators (P’nei Rosa; Rabbeinu
Bachya; Ramban; Rashbam) suggested that the mixture of wild
animals was different from the frogs and lice, whose mobility was
limited. The greater mobility of the wild animals and their nature
to freely roam from area to area necessitated a specifc statement
that a distinction will be seen between Egyptian and Jew.
“HaShem did so and a severe swarm of wild animals came to
the house of Pharaoh and the house of his servants; and through-
out the land of Egypt; the land was being ruined because of the
swarm” (Shemos 8:20). How did the animals ruin the land? One
thought was that defecations from the alien species of animals
polluted the Egyptian soil (Abarbanel; Me’Am Lo’ez).
Eventually, Pharaoh had his fll of this plague and (insincere-
ly) relented to Moshe’s demand. “Pharaoh summoned Moshe and
Aaron and said, “Go! Sacrifce to your G-d in the land” (Shemos
68 derech haTeva
8:21). In a few sentences further, HaShem caused the animals to
leave Egypt. “Moses left Pharaoh’s presence and prayed to G-d.
HaShem did as Moshe requested and He removed the wild ani-
mals from Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. Not a single one
remained” (Shemos 8: 26, 27). Many commentators contrast the
removal of the frogs with that of the wild animals. When the
frogs died, “they piled them up into heaps and heaps and the
land stank” (Shemos 8:10). The animals did not die, but left and
returned to their original habitats. If they had died, the Egyptians
would have profted from their valuable hides and furs (Me’Am
Lo’ez) and from their use as food (Rabbeinu Bachya). The Rosh
(as translated by Rav Munk [10]) noted that the wild animals did
not reproduce during their invasion of Egypt. They returned to
their natural habitats, in numbers equivalent to those that left,
and, thus, they did not adversely affect the carrying capacities of
their natural environments. The carrying capacity, or the maxi-
mum population size that an ecosystem can support indefnitely,
is determined by the sustained availability of two resources: (a)
renewable resources (e.g., water, light, nutrients) which are replen-
ished by natural processes and (b) nonrenewable resources, such
as space [11]. If the animals had reproduced, coupled with the
suspension of predator-prey relationships, the larger numbers of
animals returning to their natural ecosystems would possibly have
overwhelmed the carrying capacities of their various ecosystems.
Plague #5
Pestilence, the ffth plague, potentially is any virulent, highly
contagious infectious disease that can reach epidemic or even
pandemic proportions. Such diseases could be of microbial (e.g.,
bacterium, fungus, or parasite) or of viral (e.g., swine fu) origin.
The highly contagious nature of such diseases was recognized, as
noted in Bava Kama (60b), “If a pestilence is in the town, gather
in the feet,” meaning that people would lock themselves in their
homes to avoid contact with others.
The destruction of the Egyptian economy, principally that
component mediated by livestock and transport animals (Alshich),
was the focus of the ffth plague. Agricultural feld work was de-
pendent on oxen for plowing, terrestrial transport of materials
was accomplished with donkeys (for domestic commerce) and
with camels (for foreign commerce), military strength and opera-
tions through chariots drawn by war horses, and food and cloth-
ing was obtained from sheep, goats, and cows. The ffth plague
abruptly crippled the Egyptian economy and greatly lessened the
international importance of Egypt as the center of commerce in
the Middle East [1, 12].
There is some disagreement among the commentators as to
the extent of the epidemic, whether it affected only those ani-
mals in the felds or also affected those animals that were housed
indoors. The pasuk (Shemos 9:2) stated “For if you (i.e., Pharaoh)
refuse to send out and you continue to grip them (referring to
B’nei Yisrael), behold, the hand of HaShem is on your livestock that
are in the feld, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on
the cattle, and on the fock - a very severe epidemic.” According
to Rashi (9:10), only those animals in the feld were killed, whereas
according to Ramban (9:1), the plaque extended to those livestock
housed indoors. Ramban, as well as Rabbeinu Bachya and Sif-
sei Cohen, further noted that pestilence is usually associated with
harmful changes in air quality (i.e., in the terminology of today,
“airborne transmission” of disease-causing microbes or viruses).
Thus, it would be expected that the disease also affected livestock
housed indoors.
The description of the plague continues (Shemos 9:4), “HaSh-
em shall distinguish between the livestock of Israel and the live-
stock of Egypt, and not a thing that belongs to the Children of
Israel will die.” According to Ramban, Rabbeinu Bachya, and Sif-
sei Cohen (see Me’Am Lo’ez), because of Egyptian abhorrence
of shepherds (Bereshis 46:34), the Egyptian-owned focks were
pastured very far from their cities. Rather, they were pastured
in felds bordering Goshen. Undoubtedly, Egyptian-owned and
Jewish-owned focks intermingled and yet, albeit pastured side-
to-side, the contagion spread only to the Egyptian-owned sheep.
Airborne transmission of this plague was recognized (Ramban;
Rabbeinu Bachya, and Sifsei Cohen) and the miracle was further
compounded by the lack of death of these Jewish-owned sheep.
Although not explicitly mentioned in the chumash, the death of
thousands upon thousands of livestock in Egyptian soil must
have caused an unimaginable stench across the entire country,
similar to that caused by the rotting fsh in the frst plaque and the
rotting piles of decaying frogs in the second plague [13].
Rabbi Eliyahu Munk [10, 14] in his translations of the Tur and
Rabbeinu Bachya, specifcally noted that the plaque of pestilence
was caused by an unspecifed airborne microbe. It is interesting to
postulate on the identity of this microorganism. Although many
microbes are potential candidates, my colleague, Dr. Jennifer Suss
(SCW graduate and noted veterinarian practicing in New Jersey)
According to this theory, the skin lesions
were caused by radioactive fallout.
derech haTeva 69
suggested Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, as the
bacterial tool used by HaShem to generate the ffth plague. Inter-
estingly, this bacterium is the microbial agent of choice by those
involved in bioterrorism; in 2002, the strange white powder placed
in sealed envelopes generated much excitement and stress in the
United States. This bacterium occurs in two physiological states, (a)
a growing vegetative cell and (b) a dormant endospore. The veg-
etative state is the actively growing, reproducing form that causes
the disease. In infected cattle, the course of the disease is short,
with death occurring one to three days post-infection. Symptoms
of cattle anthrax include fever, cessation of rumination, excite-
ment followed by depression, uncoordinated movements, respira-
tory diffculty, convulsions, bloody discharges from natural body
orifces, and fnally death. After death, if the carcass is opened for
necropsy by a veterinarian, for food by a carrion-feeding animal,
or through decay, the vegetative bacteria are exposed to air and
quickly sporulate to form endospores. B. anthracis endospores are
resistant to environmental stresses, remain viable, albeit inactive,
for years, and are the form in which the disease is transmitted.
When endospores enter another animal, either through airborne
transmission or through grazing on contaminated vegetation, the
endospores germinate to their vegetative forms and initiate the
diseased state [15].
Plague #6
The sixth plague was skin boils and blisters (Shemos 9:8-12).
HaShem commanded Moshe and Aaron to fll both their hands
with furnace soot. Aaron and Moshe then transferred all four
handfuls into one of Moshe’s hands, which miraculously held all
the furnace soot. Holding the four handfuls in one hand, Moshe
forcefully hurled it heavenward before the eyes of Pharaoh. The
Middle East is, at times, in inundated with hot southerly winds
coming from the Sahara (khamsins) carrying ultrasmall particles of
sand at a density signifcant enough to eclipse the sun. Perhaps,
Moshe’s hurling the soot heavenward needed to be done in front
of Pharaoh, so that Pharaoh could not attribute this plague to a
natural sandstorm (S’forno). The relatively small amount of fur-
nace soot hurled upward spread over the entirety of Egypt, rained
down as soot, and caused painful skin boils and blisters to erupt
both on human beings and on livestock. The Tur [10], as well as
the Ramban, suggested that winds carried the soot into the Egyp-
tian homes, thereby afficting those who remained indoors.
In describing the curses to befall B’nei Yisrael should they not
observe the commandments, it is written, “HaShem will strike you
with the boils of Egypt, with garav and with cheres, of which you
cannot be cured (Devarim 28:27). According to Rashi, garav is an
affiction of moist boils and cheres is an affiction of dry boils. Rav
Munk [16] suggested that the skin boils of the sixth plaque were
curable, either because they were supernatural (Tosafos to Bechoros
41a) or because they were of a different type (Maharsha) than
mentioned in Devarim. Rav Sorotzkin [2], however, maintained
that the boils of the sixth plague were incurable. Another thought
is that the incurability of the skin boils noted in Devarim (28:27)
referred only to those skin lesions that afficted the chartumim, who
were the priests, sorcerers, and educators of Egypt. This then ex-
plains why the sorcerers were unable to stand before Moshe, as
these incurable skin lesions affected their knees and legs (Devarim
28:35). Rav E. Ginzburg [17] also postulated that the sorcerers
were never healed of the boils and, therefore, never again ap-
peared before Pharaoh to offer their advice. Rav Belsky [13] cited
a Yiddish commentator who suggested that the chartumim were
trained in special facilities in the city of Khartoum, the capital of
Sudan, where they were trained in philosophy, science, astronomy,
and the occult.
There are many opinions of the physical nature of these skin
boils. In the Talmud (Bava Kamma 80b; Bechoros 41a), these skins
boils are described as internal dry lesions which erupt through the
skin surface to form an outer moist blister. Alshich (as interpreted
by Rav Munk (2000) [18]) suggested that the plague caused blood
blisters and pus pimples on the internal mucous membranes and
a dry rash on the outer skin. The Rashbam, as translated by Rav
Munk (2003) [19], noted that the boils were infected with bacteria
and Rav S.R. Hirsch [1] described the skin boils as an infamma-
tory condition terminating in pus, tissue necrosis, and gangrene.
Sefer HaYashan added that these gangrenous lesions were mal-
odorous.
What caused the blisters and rashes? Ramban, Sefer HaYashar,
and Targum Yonathan (as cited in Me’Am Loez) suggested that the
ashes thrown into the atmosphere were hot and when deposit-
ed on the Egyptians and their livestock caused skin pathologies.
Ramban, however, provided another thought, suggesting that the
soot adversely affected the Egyptian atmosphere and it was this
polluted air that caused the skin eruptions. Perhaps, mixtures of
caustic gases (e.g., hydrogen cyanide; ammonia) were responsible
for the rashes and blisters. Rav Aryeh Kaplan [5] adds a modern
interpretation. When Moshe threw the fne ash “heavenward”
(Shemos 9:8), it was hurled so far that it escaped the Earth’s atmo-
sphere and picked up “the elemental power of the sun,” which
he defned as cosmic radiation. According to this theory, the skin
lesions were caused by radioactive fallout. Beta burns are shallow
surface skin burns caused by beta particles in radioactive fallout,
70 derech haTeva
usually seen after nuclear tests. On July 16, 1945, the frst atomic
bomb was tested in an isolated desert region in New Mexico. The
code name for the test was Trinity. After the Trinity test, radioac-
tive fallout, appearing as small faky dust particles, caused local-
ized burns on the backs of cattle in the area downwind of the test.
Castle Bravo was the code name of the frst U.S. test of a thermo-
nuclear hydrogen bomb. Detonated on March 1, 1954, at Bikini
Atoll, Marshall Islands, radioactive fallout again was generated. A
snow white dust-like powder fell for 12 hours and poisoned the
islanders who inhabited the test site, as well as the crew of Daigo
Fukuryū Maru (“Lucky Dragon No. 5”), a Japanese fshing boat
AcKnoWledgeMenTS
Appreciation is expressed to Rabbi Eric (Eli) Babich, program director, of the Jewish Enrichment Center, New York, NY, for reviewing this manuscript.
referenceS
[1] Hirsch, S.R., 1989, The Pentateuch, vol. II, Shemos, Judaica Press, Gateshead, England
[2] Sorotzkin, A., 1993, Insights in the Torah, Shemos, Mesorah Publ., Ltd., Brooklyn, NY
[3] Miller, A., 1992, Narrate to Your Son, Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, Brooklyn, NY
[4] Deutsch, Y, 1998, Let My People Go, Feldheim Publ., New York, NY.
[5] Me’Am Lo’ez, The Torah Anthology, Me’Am Lo’ez, volume 3, Exodus - I, translated by Rav A. Kaplan, 1978, Moznaim Publ. Corp., NY, NY.
[6] Nacshoni, Y., 1991, Studies in the Weekly Parshah, vol. 1, Mesorah Publ., Ltd.,Brooklyn, NY.
[7] National Geographic News, 2500, Holy squid! Photos offer frst glimpse of live deep-sea giant, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/33400095.
html
[8] Wikipedia, 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_octopus
[9] Schwab, S., 1988, Selected Writings. A collection of Addresses and Essays on Hashkafah, Jewish History, and Contemporary Issues, C.I.S. Publications,
Lakewood, NJ
[10] Munk, E., 2005, Tur on the Torah, Commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Yaakov ben Rabbeinu Asher (R’osh), vol. 2, Sh’mot-Pekudey, Lambda Publ.,
iJerusalem, Israel.
[11] Audesirk, T., Audesirk, G., and B.E. Byers, 2002, Biology. Life on Earth, 6
th
edition, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ
[12] Wein, B., 2004, The Pesach Haggadah, Sharr Press. Mesorah Publ. Ltd., Brooklyn, NY
[13] Belsky, Y., 2007, Einei Yisroel on Sefer Shemos, Machon Simchas HaTorah, Kiryat Sefer, Israel.
[14] Munk, E., 1998, Midrash Rabbeinu Bachya, vol. 3, Shemot-Yitro, Lambda Publ., Jerusalem, Israel.
[15] Kirk, J. and H. Hamlin, retrieved 2010, UC Davis, Veterinary Medicine Extension, Anthrax, http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vetext/INF-DA/INF-
iDA_Anthrax.html.
[16] Munk, E., 1994, The Call of the Torah, vol. 2, Shemos, Mesorah Publ., Ltd., Brooklyn, NY
[17] Ginzburg, E., 1990, Shiras Yehudah, Pesach Haggadah, Mesorah Publ., Ltd., Brooklyn, NY
[18] Munk, E., 2000, Midrash of Rabbi Moshe Alschich on the Torah, Lambda Publ., Jerusalem, Israel.
[19] Munk. E., 2003, Hachut Hameshulash, Commentaries on the Torah by Rabbeinu Chananel, Rabbi Sh’muel ben Meir (Rash’bam), Rabbi David Kimchi
i(R’dak), Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno, vol. 4, Sh’mot – Pekudey, Lambda Publ., Jerusalem, Israel.
[20] Answers.com, Radiation burn, retrieved April 20, 2010, http://.answers.com/topic/radiation-burn
in the test area. Both the native islanders and the crew of the fsh-
ing boat suffered severe skin lesions [20]. These descriptions of
radioactive fallout and the skin lesions that ensued are reminiscent
of the sixth plague.
Pharaoh was a stubborn person and it would take another
four plagues and the total destruction of his army before he un-
derstood that HaShem controls the world. Interestingly, in our tra-
dition, Pharaoh fees to, and becomes the ruler of, Nineveh, the
same city that, later in history, Yonah relayed HaShem’s command
of repentance (Baal HaTurim; Shemos 14:28). Apparently, Pharaoh
learned his lesson and the city repented (at least, temporarily).
g
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